In the following featured post, Alex Hutchinson, lead consultant at Efficient Law Firm, explains how law firms can increase their efficiency (especially re Document Management, Paper-Lite and Digital Workflow) by consulting with their staff before asking their technology supplier(s) to solve their problems.
We spend a large amount of our time working with small and medium-sized Law Firms, helping them increase efficiency. It doesn’t take long until technology becomes the main part of the conversation, and this is normally accompanied with frustration.
Frustration that either their existing systems are not delivering the returns they expected, and now they have invested in a system and need to deliver returns, or they know they need to invest in technology to make changes, but haven’t been able to move forward. They have seen a few suppliers (and demonstrations) but have been bamboozled with options / choice and they are not sure where to go.
All too often I hear that phrase “We don’t need all that, we just need to improve X”.
PARADOX OF CHOICE
Approaching a solutions provider and asking them to help is often where Law Firms go first to try to obtain the advice they need. Why wouldn’t you… they produce the software and deal with Law Firms day in, day out around technology. Surely they can help you make improvements!
So they then arrange a meeting with such a solutions provider (or an existing provider). They know they have a problem, so they seek out such a company to help them fix this. This is a logical next step, but even at this stage the Firm is reluctant (and feel frustrated even when arranging a meeting) as deep down they know where this is going!
Nevertheless, with no other options that they are aware of, they arrange the meeting and ask the providers to come in to tell them about their solutions. The software provider is only to happy to oblige, and starts showing the Law Firm EVERYTHING their software can do, and all the latest and greatest tech they have built, why this is helping others firms and why they are now much happier and efficient than before.
This is a common approach, but the reality is, this makes life very difficult for both the Law Firm and the Supplier.
Typically these conversations require time and energy from both sides, and after a demo or two, the project normally ends up with no movement or progress, but with lots of energy already expended. Both sides feel deflated and nothing moves forward as a new problem / opportunity arises elsewhere.
This is not uncommon, and neither parties fault directly.
YOUR PEOPLE CAN HELP
The problem with this approach is that you do not know the specifics of your current issues. You have not identified where your bottlenecks are and what areas you are looking to improve specifically. What is the current process? What works and what doesn’t? Where do you specifically need to make improvements? Why? And HOW?
If you just go straight to the solutions step, there is just too much to choose from, too many suppliers, all doing things slightly differently and the choice becomes overwhelming. This is an impossible task if you do not know your specific requirements first.
YOUR PEOPLE HAVE THE ANSWERS
Whenever we work with Clients, we ALWAYS start with their PEOPLE. In order to successfully move forward with a project in this area, YOU NEED TO CONSULT YOUR PEOPLE FIRST.
This will enable you to identify what works now, what they need to retain and why. You can also understand where their bottlenecks are and frustrations. If you understand this, you can start to identify opportunities to improve efficiency from both a time and cost perspective and, more importantly, look to make changes which deliver a BUSINESS CASE. This stops the normal process to taking a deep breath, spending the money… and then seeing if it works.
This is a simple change that will help you make progress. The good news is that your people have the answers. They are the key to a successful project and will enable you to have focused discussions with suppliers so you can work together to see how they can help you improve an existing workflow.
If you have any doubts about doing this first, just think about the time and energy you have invested previously in seeing potential suppliers and looking for quick fixes / answers. Just divert that energy and invest it in a process which has a much better chance of delivering success. There are no shortcuts or magic wands out there, but there are solutions available to your problems… you just need to know the specifics of what those problems are and HOW you want to fix them!
If you start from this position, then you will be in a much better position to go to a trusted provider to discuss how their technology can help YOU meet those requirements. This whole process takes time but is more efficient and highly likely to deliver results, not to mention the fact that you will be looking to implement changes which are far more likely to be adopted by users, particularly as you have consulted with them first.
If you want to make progress in 2019 and look to increase the efficiency of your people, then focus on your existing people and processes first. There is an abundance of suppliers and technology options available to Law Firms so you don’t need to worry about supply; you just need to understand your requirements first.
WANT SOME HELP?
I appreciate that speaking with your people and mapping this out in advance is no walk in the park. I am also aware that you need additional time, resource and expertise in order to do this… which is why we are in business and growing.
THE REASON FOR THIS ARTICLE is to help Law Firms try to avoid the common pitfalls and energy draining cycles which do not deliver results. They are deflating and stressful. I wanted to create an article which helps Law Firms realise that they are setting themselves up for failure by approaching this difficult problem in the same old way and that there is an alternative.
Yes, there are lots of opportunities available with technology, BUT it is important to understand what you need for YOUR PEOPLE AND YOUR LAW FIRM… then you can start to make progress.
About the Author: Alex Hutchinson
Alex Hutchinson is lead consultant at Efficient Law Firm.
www.EfficientLawFirm.co.uk work with Small and Medium sized Law Firms, who do not have the luxury (or requirement) for a full-time technology / IT Director. If you are looking to make improvements within this area of your firm, but do not have the fixed internal resource to manage this project and deliver results, then let’s talk.
If you want to increase your long-term profitability, then let’s talk. Efficient Law Firm only generate a margin on results being delivered, ensuring a LOW RISK engagement for Clients.