Efficiency has become the Holy Grail in today’s hypercompetitive legal environment. If a law firm can get their individual lawyers to practice more efficient work habits, clients will be happier, more business will be generated and increased profitability will surely follow.
However, it is in finding that elusive combination of motivation, innovation and skill that leads to greater efficiency that the search for this particular Grail becomes more complex.
A free webinar, “How to Compete with IBM Watson JD: Future-Proof your Practice by Improving Efficiency Now”, may help you get there. The 30-minute webinar will be held on January 28, at noon, Eastern. The webinar is produced by the Knowledge Strategy Group of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division. This webinar is actually the first part of series of free monthly 30-minute webinars focused on how to practice more efficiently and deliver better client value, said Jack Bostelman, Chair of the Knowledge Strategy Group.
Bostelman, who was a former Sullivan & Cromwell partner before forming his practice management consulting firm KM/JD Consulting LLC, said one of the drivers of this webinar was that clients are already pushing law firms for greater efficiency, even though they don’t directly ask for it from their law firms. “Clients push efficiency by gravitating toward firms with better pricing, and it’s achieving better efficiency that’s going to allow a law firm to compete on better pricing,” he said.
If lawyers can become more efficient they are not only spending less time working on a matter, which immediately reduces write-offs and write-downs, they are also then able to use that saved time working on another matter or looking for more work, he explained. “But that’s the buy-in, persuading lawyers that there is a business case for this.”
It’s People & Process, Not Technology
Too many law firm leaders think technology is the primary solution, and that the latest gadget or software is going to fix this problem or make a firm more efficient, he noted. “But you can’t lead with technology, because it you do, then you’re trying to adapt the way people work to the new technology, and that’s backwards. Lawyers especially will resist. It’s in our nature.”
Bostelman gives the example of a firm that wants to collect information about all its matters, which is a very common need at most firms. The firm decides it wants its lawyers to fill in some very basic information about matters. So, the firm buys some fancy software system, puts it on all the computers, and instruct the lawyers to fill out these long questionnaire forms. And then, nothing happens.
“That’s because the real problem here is not lack of technology to do it.The real problem is that the lawyers need to be properly motivated to do it,” he said, adding that means the process has to be engineered in a way that will make it very easy for them to do it, and with management holding people accountable for not doing it.
“And this is what we discuss in the webinar series as ‘knowledge strategy’. When you peel it back, it all becomes simple human psychology.”
In addition, Bostelman said the webinar will offer individual lawyers tips for making their own work more efficient. For example, one idea that seems quite obvious but is often not employed is the use of checklists. Keeping a checklist of all important provisions in a document or the necessary steps for certain tasks can be a vital tool. “It’s a very simple idea, but to do it well takes some focus,” he said. “Checklists can benefit all lawyers, even experienced ones. I mean, pilots use checklists, and they already know how to fly.”
Bostelman said that he hopes attendees of the webinar take away one important fact: That the concept of efficiency is a subject worth lawyers and law firm leaders spending some time on and it’s not just an IT issue. “Better efficiency can really become a key element to the survival of a law firm down the road.”