Today’s legal marketplace is more competitive than ever, and many law firms are feeling the pressure to modify their practice management strategies in order to strengthen client relationships and enhance the value of the legal services they offer.
But what changes will work? What will make law firms more competitive? And how best can firms implement these changes?
To better understand these challenges and solutions, Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing and consulting firm, and Thomson Reuters’ West LegalEdcenter, is presenting a new one-hour webinar, entitled “Leveraging Key Legal Trends to Enhance Law Practice Management,” on Thursday, March 17, at 11:45 am, EST.
The webinar will feature discussion from panelists Marilyn Archer, Principal and professional services firms practice area leader at Gensler; and Paula K. Barnes, Legal Administrator at Burr Forman LLP and past president of the Association of Legal Administrators. The panel will be moderated by Charles A. Volkert III, Executive Director of Robert Half Legal.
‘Urgency to Make Changes’
Archer said this webinar came out of the pressure many firms are getting from their clients to deliver value-based services — a situation which has been prevalent in a lot of other professional service industries, but has left the legal market somewhat untouched for a long time. “What we are seeing now happening in the legal industry is very much following patterns we’ve already seen in management consulting and accounting and other highly-educated, high-value professional service consulting industries,” she said, adding that when the economic downturn occurred, it was like an accelerator pedal to all of this.
“Everyone then felt this intensity and urgency to make changes more quickly,” Archer said.
These management changes include new approaches to the innovative use of technology, to better ways of staffing and retaining quality lawyers in the right fields, and to reconceiving and redesigning workspaces to cut costs and streamline back-office operations.
[T]his webinar came out of the pressure many firms are getting from their clients to deliver value-based services — a situation which has been prevalent in a lot of other professional service industries, but has left the legal market somewhat untouched for a long time.
Barnes noted that adapting to change — especially dramatic, systemic change — can be difficult for some people and some law firms. “People can talk about change, but until it actually hits them, they don’t do anything about it,” she said. “In this webinar, what we are trying to do is help law firm management understand what the trends are, and where we’re going to see these changes.”
Addressing Succession and Staffing
For example, many firms too often fail to deal with succession planning until the personnel changes are upon them, which can cause disruption in client relations, she said, adding that it is also vital for firms to examine what practice areas are continuing to be important for their clients now and in the future, especially if there are new areas that need to be staffed. “We’re also going to be talking about practice groups — what’s hot, what’s not.” Law firms need to look at areas like Litigation and Bankruptcy, where there has been a drop in activity, and re-examine whether their staffing level is too high; or, they need to look in places where they may see potential and might want to ramp up their presence, like Cybersecurity or Intellectual Property.
Volkert agreed that these evaluations of staffing are crucial, as is consideration of how technology can impact that. “As the market continues to evolve, law firms in particular are looking at how technology is impacting the practice, and how to create efficiencies with technology,” he said. The firm can then ask: Do we really need to hire five full-time folks or can we look at ways to staff up and down with either consultants or project professionals and allow for a little more flexibility?
This attention to staffing and costs is at the heart of legal project management and performing better quality work for less cost, explained Barnes. “With clients asking for better value, figuring out how to staff the project and ensuring that you have the right people to staff it is incredibly important,” she said, adding that outsourcing, technology and reduced office overhead are all a part of the equation.
And it’s an equation that is going become increasingly important for law firms to figure out in the future, she noted. “They may not be feeling the crunch right now, but they will.”