In December 2018, Lawyers Weekly reported that law firms are experiencing a range of disruptive factors, “the most profound economically are those arising from technological shifts”.

While the article describes digitisation as “an incredible and little understood force”, at FilePro, we are starting to experience the opposite.

Namely: lawyers are now driving change, rather than being ‘disrupted’.

Rather than digital laggards, we’re working with firms who continue to evolve using technology as a core part of their long-term strategy – rather than react to buzzwords such as ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’. As an industry, the level of ownership of technological change is at an all-time high as evidenced by the spectrum of Legal Technology events on offer.

The ‘Cutting through the **I.T. – Decoding the legal tech market’ report from Lawyers on Demand (LOD) and Ron Friedmann, states that “Improving efficiency and effectiveness with any new technology requires real changes in how lawyers work”.

Our 10 year relationship with LOD has meant we were able to support them to deliver on their growth strategy. As Ken Jagger, Co-Founder and Director of LOD stated,

“From helping a team of 3 in Perth to now supporting over 650 lawyers across 6 countries, having FilePro come on the journey with us has been invaluable. The continuity and consistency of the FilePro team and their preparedness to experiment and tailor the product has played a large role in our business success.”

The reality is that this journey has been mutually rewarding.

So, as a technology provider keen to help more firms integrate technology with their core business strategy, here are five things I’ve learnt from firms who implemented successful strategies in 2018.

1. Technology and data aren’t afterthoughts

For a number of the firms FilePro works with, technology is the enabler to deliver strategy and providers are more than just suppliers to their accounts team, they are a part of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

This has a secondary effect: firms that properly implement technology start to recognise data as a multiplier to increasing the value of a firm’s client experience and brand value. They start to plan and ask questions about how data is stored, used and shared.

2. They embrace the concept of continuous improvement

Rather than make radical changes to their firm’s technology, these law firms have learnt that introducing steady and consistent changes with adequate training and management is key.

There is such thing as too much change too quickly, and without proper education, introducing too many new processes and technologies will overwhelm your staff, and in the worst case, increase error and staff churn.

Instead, we advocate steady and continuous improvement.

To some, this may sound disruptive. But for your teams and clients, it’s the reality of today’s technology-led world. Clients want to walk into a law firm and see that lawyers are on the cutting edge of tech and doing things efficiently.

While technology is on the checklist of many clients, it also helps improve a number of processes – it enables fast and effective responses to changes in regulations, risks, processes, pricing, competition, client or staff needs.

Even better, technology-led change is no longer the exclusive domain of large or NewLaw firms. In fact, freeing up your staff from routine paperwork allows them to add extraordinary value through other avenues, such as stronger client relationships and networking. It also enables flexible work arrangements and, as a consequence, retention of quality staff.

3. Drive change from within the firm

If the introduction of technology is to be successful, then everybody needs to be on board.

All owners, partners and directors should lead the change by demonstrating the support and enthusiasm for the changes. Is your practice manager invited to your strategy sessions? How about someone from IT? If not, is there someone who will champion the use of technology, or at the very least has an understanding of the technology market?

From the outset, your team should be involved – whether it’s planning a new process, installing a new system, or making any significant change to day-to-day work responsibilities. This may seem simple, but it’s surprising how often teams are first notified of a change after it has been made.

Begin by explaining the reasons for the change, then agree on:

  • The goals – ensure there are measurable targets and a timeframe
  • The mandatories of the project
  • Whether you have the competencies, tools and internal resourcing to create positive change

While it’s great to get everybody involved, delegation to internal champions is strongly advocated. As Fiona McLay states, ‘It is important to have one person with a mandate to implement change to be the driver and point of contact with the software provider.’

These champions will act as role models and gain the support of the entire team ­– enabling open and transparent communication throughout the entire process.

4. Accountability drives ongoing gains

Once they’ve set the goals noted above, successful law firms establish sustainable change by developing shared accountability between the firm and provider.

Agreeing on goals within your firm allows meaningful and open performance discussions – although this relies upon a transparent process to monitor progress. This will also create visible improvements in your client experience impact.

5. Lean on your technology provider

In my experience, technology providers often ‘set and forget’ their software. This isn’t the exception, but the rule.

Firms should not be left to figure out how to leverage their technology. This counterproductive practice takes lawyers away from working on their matters and clients.

Instead, we encourage law firms to lean on their providers to share their experience and technology – as an ongoing practice, not just at set up.

At FilePro, we work hard to do so. But if you’re engaging another provider, I would suggest you look for:

  • Onsite project management and training to all staff
  • Ability to customise prior to going live, e.g. report layouts, workflow and accounting
  • Their experience with mergers/restructures
  • How they help existing clients optimise software e.g. cleaning data and health checks,
  • Whether ongoing training (particularly for new staff members) is readily available and at no additional cost to the firm.
  • Which other firms they have dealt with, especially those of a similar size or location. Find out what they did that worked, and what they did that didn’t work.

Once systems are implemented, ask your provider to come back to visit in 3 or 6 months. Ask them what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better. Discuss the results being seen, or not, based on agreed goals at the outset.

Overall, if you’re like many of the firms we’re working with, you’re more fearless in looking at change and should lean on your providers and work with them.

About the author

Todd Keeler is a Director of FilePro. With 20 years experience working with legal practice management software, he has a particular interest in bookkeeping and accounting, a key facet of FilePro’s fully integrated offering. Todd oversees a team working with over 450 law firms, in Australia and overseas. He works with firms of different sizes – from sole practitioners to FilePro’s biggest client, a multinational firm with 750 users.