In the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world in which we operate, some law firms are seeking comfort through traditional ways of operating instead of satisfying clients’ hunger for transformative thinking.
So, which mindset is the way forward to achieve strategic success, and are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?
Law firms operate with an inherent risk averse mentality– it’s what has been taught, imbedded and expected. However, playing it safe in 2018 is no longer an option. With connectivity at our fingertips, we live in a world of constant information and fear of missing out. One of the only ways to allay this fear is to stand out from your competition by having a unique selling point beyond your specialisation – we can no longer work alone, we must collaborate.
“Collaboration amongst lawyers is the key in moving forward”
Michele DeStefano, professor of law at the University of Miami, Guest Faculty at Harvard Law School, Executive Education and the founder of LawWithoutWalls. concludes that, “collaboration amongst lawyers is the key in moving forward.” Why? Because clients face ever increasingly complex challenges and they want to innovate with a firm that can provide solutions on multiple levels.
Collaboration is sometimes a hard sell and it can be difficult to see a quick return on investment from the skills required but, with a little assistance, it can be easier to realise.
This is where technology comes in. DeStefano has ranked the leading laws firms in the US and the UK on their ability to embrace innovation and transform the way law firms have traditionally operated. Typically, “most law firms have been graded with a C – I’m a professor so that’s not a bad mark”, says DeStefano, but a stand out law firm is Pinsent Masons in the UK because they show “true collaboration.” DeStefano explains Pinsent Masons collaborate both internally and externally, which is key in achieving this level of success. In so doing, the firm ensures that their innovation strategy isn’t disconnected from their clients’ needs.
DeStefano explains that not every problem a law firm faces can be solved by only using lawyering skills. Lawyers are specialised in their field but, in order to connect the dots with multi-disciplinary teams to become the best problem solvers, a technological platform is required to be the middle man. What does Pinsent Masons use to drive this grade A success? ObjectiveManager software.
ObjectiveManager allows talent within the firm to connect the dots through a transparent approach to strategy, facilitating genuine behavioural change towards a more collaborative mindset. Together with the right technological platform and the right mindset – tradition meets transformation.
Milos Kresojevic, innovation architect at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer says change, innovation and transformation “impacts every single department in our firm because we are trying to do things differently.” Change can indeed be scary, but falling behind is even scarier. Transformation doesn’t need to be a large TNT explosion, it can be ‘tiny new things’ that lead to increased efficiencies, better internal practices and more opportunities to delight clients.
“Collaboration is a strategic response to external change and a path to survival”
Alex Hamilton CEO of Radiant Law said technology is “pretty core” when discussing how innovation within a business can succeed. Without technology supporting collaboration a firm becomes even more vulnerable to new disruptive players that enter the legal services market. Dr. Heidi Gardner, Harvard Law Professor, states clearly in her book ‘Smart Collaboration’ that “collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a strategic response to external change and the path to survival.”
Does collaboration happen overnight? No. But with the right initiative, a focus on the desired skill set and intuitive software to help embed behaviours, we can skip a few painful steps. In an environment where everyone is specialised in their field, the need to transform requires breaking down traditional beliefs and creating a new way of thinking. Technology is already here today, and collaboration is certainly the way of the future.
Jones, L. and Blum, V. (2018). Beyond the Buzzwords: Getting Real About Law Firm Innovation | Law.com. [online] Law.com. Available at: https://www.law.com/2018/09/28/beyond-the-buzzwords-getting-real-about-law-firm-innovation/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
LegalWeek. (2017). ‘The client is a terrific agent of change’ – how law firms are setting themselves up to innovate | LegalWeek. [online] Available at: https://www.law.com/legal-week/sites/legalweek/2017/09/26/the-client-is-a-terrific-agent-of-change-how-law-firms-are-setting-themselves-up-to-innovate/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Gardner, H. (2016). Smart Collaboration. 1st ed. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.