This series at Trial by Tech may be something you want to keep an eye on over the next couple of upcoming posts. I’m sure I will but I think this first part, identifying why legal consumers are turning to legal service companies can really be boiled down to this:
“In another survey posted by Law.com, 81 percent of clients answered they saw little if any innovation inside their law firms.”
Law firms haven’t really been innovating, and when they have been doing some innovative things, it’s typically further down the chain than a client is going to notice.
Why? Well there are many reasons for this, but a large part of it comes down to who handles the relationship with the client. Large clients are typically handled by senior partners. The one’s who have been handling the same types of clients, the same way, for years. They are, typically, not the quickest to adopt new, innovative, ideas, because what they have been doing for all those years, has worked, and there is something to be said for that. I don’t want to dismiss it entirely.
On the other hand, the fact that it has worked for all these years, doesn’t mean it will continue to work. Disruptive innovation is happening in the legal industry. Maybe not as quickly as it has in other industries, but it’s happening. (Remember, Blockbuster was, at one time, very successful doing the same thing for years, until it wasn’t.)
Part of the reason it’s been slower to come to legal is because of the entrenched position of large firms. If you wanted to compete with a large firm for clients, you pretty much had to also be a large firm, and large firms, by their very nature, are not nimble when it comes to innovation.
But law firms are no longer just competing with each other. The disruption is coming from other players, providing a whole bunch of legal services with more innovation, better pricing, and frankly, more technical talent.
Not to disparage my Lit Support peers inside of firms as well as multiple other areas like Information Governance, Knowledge Management, etc., who do some amazing work, but let’s face it, firms don’t run around talking about the technical talent in business development plans. Clients don’t normally have any idea what goes on at that level.
Which brings us to the other problem. Firms are innovating, they just don’t really know how to talk about it. Those same partners having the conversation with clients, aren’t comfortable talking about the technology, or having any of their “staff” talk to clients directly, so the clients, when surveyed, respond that they don’t see their firms innovating.
Because they don’t see it. Even when it is happening, it’s not seen by the senior partners who they talk to either. It’s not touted on websites, written about on firm blogs, shared on social media, etc. It’s quietly being done by people who can do it, who also happen to not be lawyers, so no one recognizes it as “legal” work, let alone innovation.
It’s beyond time for that to change.