Law firm leaders are well past the point of approving large new technology expenditures simply because they are impressed with the latest fads or afraid of missing out on a new tool that other firms are rumored to be buying. Firms are moving toward technology solutions that drive firm, business, and practice value. Innovation is taking hold. Bottom line benefits are now core to making technology decisions, and balancing scarce IT and firm resources.
Law firms of all sizes are seizing the moment to rethink the strategic role of the IT function within their organizations and considering various ways that IT can impact their competitive positioning in the marketplace. As my colleague Erik Schmidt wrote recently, a number of these firms are learning that a bold strategic shift to an IT managed services model is helping them achieve greater efficiencies and reduce a variety of IT-related risks.
The evolution of the U.S. legal industry has accelerated in recent years. Law firms and other legal service providers have adopted an array of new technologies that have impacted both the business and practice of law. Meanwhile, these new technologies are driving a variety of changes to legal workforce dynamics that are forcing employers to navigate internal culture shifts. These simultaneous forces of technology and workforce changes are challenging law firms to rethink the way they deliver value to internal and external clients.
Did the recent Hafnium cyber attack scare you? It should have. It is the latest and broadest attack to hit law firms.
As we emerge—hopefully soon—from the coronavirus crisis, organizations are celebrating what they have accomplished and reflecting on what they have learned in a year marked by dramatic challenges. Responding to the ever-shifting circumstances of a global pandemic demanded adapting continuously, keeping a watchful eye on current and future needs, and recalibrating technological tools and capabilities.
All of us who work in the legal industry were forced into a work from home model in early-2020, virtually overnight, and suddenly found ourselves replacing in-person meetings with Zoom. It was a paradigm shift that had been quietly underway for years but accelerated with breathtaking speed.
Last year was a maelstrom of change—which of course also swept up Legal Lab, HBR Consulting’s annual gathering of leaders from some of the nation’s top law departments and law firms. Rather than the two-day, in-person event that HBR usually hosts, last year Legal Lab turned into as a series of five virtual sessions across multiple weeks.
Today’s fast-changing client expectations and legal practice demands are forcing law firms to adapt their internal operations for how they will conduct business in the future. These operational changes require agile transformation across the three areas of people, processes and technology. In short, there are now more specialized skills needed to support and operate the newly defined roles, more interconnections between various law firm capabilities, and more technology needed to support user activity across the organization. This evolution in law firm operations calls for a common reference point that can serve as a quick-look guide for the firm’s professionals and leaders. This sort of reference framework can help provide a clear understanding of the firm’s internal operations and processes, including key client touch points.
Recently, we have seen a remarkably fast uptake in law firms’ adoption of Microsoft Teams as their preferred collaboration platform. In fact, it is not a stretch to predict that it is no longer a matter of if law firms will implement Teams, but when they will do so. And while there has been a lot of messaging around implementing and using Teams in the legal industry, there has been nothing about the real work that is required for governance and compliance. Implementing, provisioning and managing Microsoft Teams is only part of what needs to be done. Teams is complex and, as a preliminary step, it is important for law firms to develop the appropriate policies, procedures and controls within Microsoft Office 365 to ensure they are ready for a secure and compliant Teams roll-out.
The world has changed since the pandemic and effective lockdown were implemented, highlighting the need for law firm IT functions to be prepared for adverse situations. The sudden change we are experiencing has ushered in a host of new concerns and responsibilities for law firm IT leadership, not the least of which is cost management. Some law firm IT leaders have found themselves locked into some vendor contracts, with their associated costs and reduced flexibility. As law firm IT leaders plan for 2021 and beyond, exercising strong vendor governance principles can help them better address the current downturn and be prepared for future economic fluxes.