20 March 2017

New law: where does the new client fit in?

Amid the potential for new technologies to transform legal delivery, the most exciting change we are currently seeing is clients who expect more.

So much of the talk around innovation in legal services misses the one vital element of the whole equation. Technology is and will continue to play a huge role, but something bigger is happening: focus on the client.

More clients are demanding lawyers who collaborate with them, and co-create solutions instead of working on the old basis of the division between client and lawyer. The firms they will seek out are firms who can do this collaborative work, who can operate in multi-disciplinary teams to co-create the best outcome for the client.

In this way, the rise of the ‘new law’ firm is not just a response to technology. It is a change in thinking, a shift in focus from the internal to a focus on clients.

A change in client expectations is exciting because we believe it provides the accelerator for productive change. The transformation to Smarter Law has a better chance of reaching its potential if the client wants and is committed to it.

There are still clients who do not currently expect their law firms to be creative, to come to them with new thinking, new technology or much out of the ordinary from traditional legal services delivery. But more are becoming switched on to new possibilities.

The clients of the future share the innovation vision, which includes smart technology applications, collaboration and different forms of legal service delivery.

Keeping law for the lawyers and using other people for the process is one development. This happens via technology application, employing paralegals or legal secretaries or new graduates or even specialists who can manage the technology and the process.

While many lawyers and clients still operate in the old way, more are accepting the trend towards legal services as a business. Those who focus on the business side of law will become the new law firms. They will want to recruit law graduates who fit the new business model of law.

The new graduate has to be able to work in multidisciplinary teams with other professionals inside and outside the firm. That a graduate needs to become a great lawyer is a given. What differentiates the best new lawyers is that they are commercially aware, capable of managing the costs of supplying services, use technology where they can, and use the right people to deliver a better client solution.

Law firms need to play a role with universities in addressing the future shape of courses and the skills required of graduates. The focus has to be more on what companies are looking for in practical terms. For example, we already know that clients need IT literate and well-rounded lawyers.

Being aware of possibilities and thinking creatively about what can be done, rather than about what has been done, is an exciting path for law and its great to be on the journey with new clients. A “client solutions focus” doesn’t just underpin innovation in use of technology and processes to change service delivery, it makes all of us better legal business advisors.