Vendors Need to Lead in Thought and Deed

Time after time I meet firms that have had consultants share thought leadership around pricing, time recording training, WIP analyses, and general business consultancy. Each firm has had the same experience: the experts talk the talk and then walk… out the building with a big fee.

The experts don’t generally stick around to help turn words into deeds. But even if they did, I would suggest that they would struggle to effect real change.

We all know that many law firms are quite singular, are not run like conventional businesses, and have a healthy appetite for getting advisors in to tell them how they might gravitate toward business norms. Advisors say understand your costs, innovate on pricing, employ pricing managers, and harness business intelligence.

If the experts stayed on, they would come up short immediately as the vendors out there aren't spending enough time with these consultants to understand this thinking and adapt their software to embrace it. The result? Firms can’t support this thinking either as the technology is not there to help them. So what's the point of it all? I meet firms that spend tens of thousands of pounds on external consulting only for them to realize their systems can't contain, drive, or embrace this thought leadership.

Let's look at some obvious examples.

Innovative pricing models – You hear it all the time: the death of the billable hour, the rise of AFAs, client-driven models. But most firms run blind as to the cost of doing business. This is an astonishing fact about the legal industry, but it's true. Most firms have little idea as to the actual real cost of delivering legal services.

Implementing or changing targets that are completely meaningless – Firms average a time target of around 6.5 hours a day. This is a pain for fee earners, and most don't achieve it. What's worse is that many, many lawyers work far more hours than this, yet the firm’s systems again run blind to this data set.

Time recording policies – A sensible idea, but most firms don't have one and of those that do, very few actually follow it. Systems give enough rein to fee earners to enable them to record time in ways that are completely contrary to best practice. This is not good when the currency of any law firm is their expertise-laced time.

I could go on and on with examples of this consulting expertise running into a tech brick wall. However, I want to ask why is it that firms think nothing of spending £50k on consultants and yet would never dream of spending the same or even less on some innovative technology that would genuinely facilitate change?

In a way (and in my experience) it's common sense: technology on its own doesn't work. Consulting, training, or change management on its own doesn't either. What I have seen work best is when the two go hand in hand, especially (which is very rare) when the two minds meet and the vendors step up to embrace and inject the latest thought leadership and innovation into the technology so these systems can automate and drive the crucial commercial underpinnings. Let's face it, that is what most other verticals do. Would a retailer be successful without sophisticated systems for stock control, pricing management, and CRM? Of course not. And therein lies the professional practice’s opportunity to morph into a competitive, sustainable legal business. Talk the talk then walk the…right technology into the building.


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