Two-thousand twenty shifted us within a matter of hours from pontificating about the “future of” to “it’s go time” in days, or even hours for some industries. Dr. Daniel Susskind said it best during the Legal Marketing Association’s Opening General Session, “One way to think of the pandemic is that we were all involved in an unplanned pilot. In one night telemedicine, online education and much more became the norm.”
The common thread throughout the conference echoed his sentiment that essentially, we are in the future.
Takeaways from the conference
Below are some key takeaways and thoughts that were sparked over the course of the conference:
The next generation of attorneys will need to be a legal athlete. Beyond being a good lawyer, you need to be a technologist, project manager, know how to manage large groups of people; work with less oversight and hand-holding.(Session: What are ALSPs and What are the Threats? And What Might Be the Opportunities?)
The legal industry’s shift is driven by future practitioners. Retaining them will require a deeper understanding of their needs, given the greater demands ahead.
It is no secret that younger professionals are native to devices, social media, and the rapid churn of new technologies. They enter the workforce with an expectation that these technologies are in place so that their work can be streamlined for efficiency and collaboration, allowing them to dedicate their time to “the work” with greater autonomy.
They don’t see technology or innovation vertically like previous generations, but horizontally. Technology and innovation are not seen as a distraction or point of frustration, but an enabler to tackle the multitude of the industry’s growing expectations.
Young attorneys invite not only new products, services, or processes, but unique collaborators like Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs), along with continuous upskilling to leverage tools most effectively.
Relevant to this, the most recent International Bar Association (IBA) Young Lawyer’s Report noted that 40% of the 3000 respondents said, “Artificial intelligence and legal technology training is viewed as critical for their future”.
If the industry’s anticipated shift to the legal athlete model is the case, then firms must recognize the imperative to meet talent where they are, providing them with the tools and collaborators to execute most efficiently or face the risk of a continued shortage and turnover.
Do not be a bystander, but an upstander, “someone that moves this [DEI] important value driven human activity forward in your organization.”Session: “Achieving Inclusion in Our Industry: Making the Choice in 2022”
Fun fact: Carl G. Cooper, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Pittsburgh-based firm K&L Gates (2003-2007) is the first known CDO.
As of December 2021, the Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals has identified approximately 16 to 20 people in a DEI role with “Chief” in their titles.
Traditionally, CDO is a senior executive position charged with devising and executing the firm’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. This includes the creation of DEI strategies that lead and support hiring, promotion and training of diverse groups. Their role can also include: 1) taking on the responsibility of crafting responses to societal events specific to diversity, equity, and inclusion, 2) acting as mediators and mentors, and, and 3) identifying and filling the gaps of connectivity between diverse team members and the larger firm.
During one of the LMA sessions I asked a presenter how they, or their peers, would manage their role if there were no strong buy-in for DEI initiatives by the firm. One of the answers centered around the importance of identifying the internal champions, and that once the champions are identified they could be leveraged to move initiatives forward.
Champions, a form of allies, do not stand on the sidelines. They play an active and visible role to support diverse groups, in partnership with the DEI leadership.
Having their peers observe them moving the DEI needle forward could have a snowball effect and encourage them to become champions as well.
Per Deloitte’s 2019 State of Inclusion Survey, “Allies may serve as the missing link for organizations to take the next step in truly embedding inclusion into the everyday experiences of their people.”
If you are going to change the system it is important to bring in as many people as possible that are affected by the changes.Session: “What Are We Solving For? How to Stop Random Acts of Technology (RAT)”
As if we needed anything more to plague our daily existence alongside the public health crisis, there is also the “tech stack crisis” to manage.
Amongst other things, the crisis is perpetuated by legacy thinking about the role of IT in solutioning to address pain points for organizations. It has not been a common practice for IT to be integrated into the stack building process from the beginning. They are generally brought in after a solution has been identified to merely implement, oversee and maintain.
Pertaining to marketing departments (and beyond), as referenced in this session, firms are finding themselves with problematic stacks that:
- only meet immediate needs
- are haphazardly implemented
- lack attention to user needs, and/or
- have no strategy.
Much of this results in underutilized technologies, lots of patches, and homegrown solutions.
But alas there is a remedy for the tech stack crisis – COLLABORATION and aligning the technology with how it will contribute to the firm’s strategic goals.
According to Gartner, the legal and technology predictions for 2022 include the notion that the legal department will automate over 50 percent of legal work for key business transactions.
This automation will require shifting the culture of the relationship firms have with IT leads.
What would it be like:
- seeing IT as partners in the strategic planning process to ideate about solutions to problems across the firm?
- reframing IT leads as subject matter experts and assets instead of vendors to merely provide a service?
- arming the IT team with a deeper understanding of the goals, drivers, and capabilities of each department coupled with implementing a process to source for their ideas and real-time learnings on an ongoing basis?
In the “Before Times” (aka pre-pandemic) there was a quickening to expand the role of IT departments due to cybersecurity risks and leanings toward being more “innovative”. In this new business climate there is an accelerated quickening for that reason, in addition to the ever-changing competitive landscape.
Law firms can’t afford to lag behind. Their competition includes tech-enabled legal practices and technology companies that are expressly created to tackle the ills of the traditional firm model, meeting the needs of a more technologically-advanced consumer base.
Don’t fall behind
Get ahead of the competition. Start with this “Sharpen Your Law Firm’s Competitive Edge” guide which features insights from nine legal business development experts.