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Players and winners

15 October 12

Are you a “player”? These are the people, it is said, who are key to taking their businesses forward, which means in particular, of course, smart use of IT

by Warren Wander

The legal profession in Scotland is currently “keeping a watchful eye on ABS”. With some “not overly concerned”, and others “reserving judgment at this stage”, there are mixed views on the impact that this new legislation will have.

Even though the Legal Services (Scotland) Act doesn’t come into force until the middle of 2013, and considering that revenue from Scottish legal services is 1/20th the size of that in England, should lawyers in Scotland be so blasé about what will probably be one of the biggest shifts in legal service provision in history? (Read Street Level Insights for a LawCloud special industry report published in the Journal Online, August 2012 for economic insight following feedback from high street law firms in Scotland, to find out more about how high street firms see the state of affairs.)

Shape of things to come

Two recent articles published in the Law Society’s Gazette (England & Wales) really hit home, and these are just a few of the ever growing examples of how the industry is going through an enormous transformation right now.

The Three ring promise from Co-Op family law clearly demonstrates how serious the Co-Op is, with its suggestion of 3,000 staff and a £50 million investment over the next five years. Whilst we all know that family law is time consuming, emotional and needs a high level of personal service and care, a brand like the Co-Op will be attractive to some and this will eat away at market share.

The other Gazette article was LegalZoom in Quality Solicitors tie up, giving the Quality Solicitors brand access to a range of online legal documentation services for small business and consumers. Again there are reservations, but it’s another example of the online world winning market share for consumers who are able and perhaps seeking an alternative, more budget approach.

Technology today is a serious business enabler, and is proven to help firms work smarter, more flexibly, efficiently and more competitively. It brings teams together and can give a more joined-up thinking approach. It protects your data, organises your workflow and manages your risk.  If your technology isn’t helping you thrive in these key areas, it is vital that you review the systems, procedures and processes that you have in place.

If your technology isn’t running well on all four cylinders, you could be compromising your business growth and longevity and you could be left behind by firms that are able to deliver more quickly and more competitively partly due to their use of technology.

Aside from investing in the best systems, you need to ensure that you receive the training and support that your team needs to make the most of the solution that you have. Ensuring that you maximise your usage and adoption, you may need to nurture a culture change, as often new and more efficient ways of working are met with resistance and this is usually stimulated by fear of change.

The good, the bad and the indifferent

At the Law Society of Scotland’s annual conference, Roger Flynn, former senior executive and director at Virgin, BA, Prudential, and the BBC, delivered an illuminating insight into his experience of business change and how in any business there are four types of people who influence change in a variety of ways.

Roger described, first, “players”, as high energy, positive attitude individuals who promote change positively and energetically. These are the leaders who drive innovation and pave the way forward with the firm’s best interests at heart. They are the visionaries and positive advocators of change, who are “excited about the prospect of these new changes”.

He then went on to describe the “spectators”: positive attitude, but low energy for change. These are individuals who say things like “Change, great, I hope you do well with it, it all sounds good.” Whilst they won’t get in the way of change, and are enthusiastic, they aren’t prepared to commit to doing anything actively.

Then there are the “walking dead”: low energy, negative attitude to change. Typically, when you try to discuss the great things the firm are working on going forward, they will grunt or nod, not really showing any interest at all in the way forward.

Finally and the worst of the lot are the “well poisoners”: negative attitude, high energy. These individuals are dangerous as they can cause a project to fail by manipulating negativity with high energy. They will typically say things like: “That new project, sounds great, you know if you get involved in it and it fails, it will be the chop for you!”

It may be that you can recognise some of these personalities within your business. The key is to move forward as a player, leading by example, influencing your team and becoming a 21st century law firm that can thrive with the opportunities ahead of us in this changing marketplace.

The idea is that as a player, you need to lead the way and get as many people on your side as possible, converting the spectators, even the walking dead to players as best you can. However, converting a well poisoner is the primary ambition, and if you can’t then you may need to take drastic action, as well poisoners aren’t the kind of people that you want working in an organisation, especially when it is going through a positive transformation.

Get out more

If you are finding like many that the innate conservatism of the legal profession is perhaps holding back your creativity then why not “get out of the office” and take a look at how other people work. Perhaps spend some time getting an insight to a variety of other business models such as a visit to your accountant’s office, the architect, your IT supplier and see how they work. Gaining a different perspective could be a refreshing and eye opening experience.

In today’s competitive marketplace, it is essential that you have the best IT systems in place to meet client demands and your firm’s operational needs.

You need to know that you can focus on what you are good at – the art of delivering high quality legal services and looking after your clients, without needing to be concerned about the availability and reliability of your technology infrastructure and systems.

Technology can help

Technology, especially the new generation of practice management systems that are Cloud based, will help you to: 

  • Introduce flexible working, by enabling a work-from-anywhere capability using Cloud.
  • Increase staff morale and help you to attract and retain quality staff, by demonstrating your investment in the latest technology and commitment to the business.
  • Simplify your technology, by reducing, even removing the need to manage a complicated on-premise server and eradicating the expensive five year server replacement cycle.
  • Gain peace of mind by knowing that backups are taken care of and that you have a ready made, inbuilt disaster recovery plan in place as a byproduct of the Cloud service.
  • Minimise downtime and maximise business continuity in the event of a local failure or force majeure disaster prohibiting access to your offices, by enabling the facility to connect to your systems from any internet enabled location.
  • Future proof your technology, by having all future patches and version updates taken care of by a specialist team of dedicated processionals.
  • Increase efficiency and competitiveness, through the utilisation of leading edge software backed up by a first class support team and an ongoing, all inclusive staff training commitment.
  • Assure yourself of optimum performance and enhanced data security, by knowing that you are using the newest operating systems and platforms to host your essential systems.
  • Nurture your team spirit, bond your staff and link remote offices, by utilising a single, centralised, joined-up system, replacing disparate islands of information.
  • Save costs and improve your cash flow management, by introducing all of this at a low fixed monthly cost.
  • Manage your risk, with inbuilt features to streamline such things as anti-money laundering and compliance.
  • Retain the value in your business, by having well organised data and comprehensive management reporting, ensuring that when you plan an exit, you can demonstrate where the value lies.

The world of technology is also going through a transition, with the advent of Cloud and the fading of the need to support and maintain expensive in-house servers. The benefits to the consumer are clear, and technology providers, who are perhaps more used to the pace of change in IT, have to adapt to this convergence of technologies.

Lawyers need to find and work with a trusted provider who they are confident can complement their firms and nurture strong supplier relationships for the long term. It’s all about survival, and with an open cultured, partnering, energetic, and positive change attitude, it will be clear who the winners are.

Warren Wander is the founder and managing director of LawWare Ltd and more recently has launched LawCloud. He has spent all his working life in the software development field and believes passionately that technology is there to help improve quality of life.
e: warren@lawware.co.uk
Linked in: www.linkedin.com/in/warrenwander
LawCloud: www.lawcloud.co.uk

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