Legal Lab: Accelerating the Pace of Change Across the Legal Vertical

Nick Quil | July 27, 2015

Many law firms are seeking to keep pace with the rapid changes occurring within the industry today. A law firm’s culture and structure are key factors as clients set requirements to ensure legal services meet their unique needs, firms’ attorney and staff expectations change with every generation and technologies evolve at the speed of light.

Given the complexity of today’s business environment, how can law firms implement change within the organization without disrupting the day-to-day operations that are critical to ongoing profitability?

Open and thoughtful communication must exist not only amongst leadership, but also directly with clients so that firms can ensure they are building a competitive, compelling platform that attracts and retains both clients and talent.

Additionally, firms need to consider how certain factors such as service delivery efficiencies, successful integration of laterals, formation of client teams and alignment of administrative staff can play a role in differentiating the firm in the market place.

Legal Lab

To facilitate a more open and direct dialog around change and today’s business landscape, HBR gathered together a select group of industry thought leaders at the first ever Legal Lab.

Legal Lab included attendees from law firms that are currently evaluating or have recently implemented changes that affect the practice of law and overall service delivery model. All C-level functions within the law firm were represented, along with GCs and corporate law departments. To provide additional insight, and unique to this type of gathering, senior leaders from other professional services industries and change management experts were also in attendance.

Over the course of the two-day event, attendees exchanged ideas and heard from industry experts on topics critical to law firms, including:

  • Managing change
  • The impact of change
  • Driving innovation
  • Law firm culture and strategy
  • The law firm of the future

Key Lesson Learned

Although law firm leadership is ultimately responsible for setting strategic direction and vision, leveraging the client as a primary catalyst for change is a common theme among leading firms. Many law firm leaders are making a strategic shift away from internally focused communications, and moving towards external client collaboration. With greater understanding and insight into clients’ challenges and operating environment, firms not only demonstrate the breadth and depth of their legal expertise, but bring to bear the firms’ broader capabilities to develop solutions and drive efficiencies.

Many other industry events have examined the “increasing demands of clients” as a challenge, however, we believe these demands should be looked at as an opportunity for law firm leaders to engage with clients at a more productive and effective level.

Additional key insights from Legal Lab include:

  • Working with outside counsel: the general counsel point of view
  • Obstacles and elements of successful change
  • Driving force of change within the most innovative firms
  • Effects of the multi-generational workforce on change
  • Leadership/partnership structure influence on change within the firm
  • Profitability and compensation incentives to ignite change

HBR has taken the most insightful lessons learned from Legal Lab and compiled them into an executive summary report, which is available for download.