photo-1448220140720-53ea5ddbd54a“What they really need is leadership willing to make decisions.” 

That’s what one reader feels is going to be required of the law firm of the future. And that’s true, isn’t it? Although it’s inherent in some of the responses we’ve seen from the authors included in HighQ’s book on Smart Law – in order to make changes and be ready for the future, you have to have curiosity and open-mindedness, a level of comfort with innovation. But really, you have to have guts.

It reminded me of the phrase clients have been using for years – “Change or die.” I’ve blogged about it before, so I searched Zen to see where it came up – and you might be surprised to see that we’ve been talking about this for six years already:

We keep talking about changing or dying, and sometimes, changing an industry like the legal industry is like turning an ocean liner – it takes time. Will we see the monolithic shifts in the industry that we hope to in the next five years? The next ten? That remains to be seen. But we do need bold, strategic thinkers with varied characteristics and guts to be leading the charge. As Will Rogers said “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Today, let’s look at what two more authors in HighQ’s ebook see as necessary characteristics for the law firm of the future.

Ron Friedmann: Better Service Delivery

Ron Friedmann is a consultant with Fireman & Company and President of Prism Legal Consulting. I love what he has to say about the law firm of the future, and not just because he emphasizes getting rid of the caste system within law firms. His focus for the law firm of the future is two-fold, and it all focuses on the client.

First, lawyers must learn to work better with other professionals (my recommendation – let’s stop using the term “non-lawyer”). How does this benefit the client?

Doing so will deliver better quality output by tapping marketing professionals, IT professionals, accountants, consultants, and other domain experts.”

The truth is lawyers are smart people. But so are marketing professionals, IT professionals, accountants, consultants and other domain experts. We are uniquely qualified in our areas of expertise by our training and experience, just as lawyers are uniquely qualified in their areas of expertise by theirs. We can all work together to effectively and efficiently serve clients in a way that builds relationships and brings business into a law firm, and ultimately strengthens the bottom line.

Secondly, clients have different expectations these days about what it means to deliver effective service.

For decades, lawyers have believed and acted on the basis that ‘I deliver the right answer to my clients and that’s all I need to do’. Today, we’re in a dramatically different and more competitive market. Clients have new expectations.”

We’ve talked about this idea before on Zen a lot – it’s the belief that smart is what differentiates you. But that’s no longer the case – smart is what gets you to the table. Friedmann agrees.

The new mindset must recognize that, in most cases, 90% of matters, clients will assume that most any lawyer they pick will come up with the right answer. Clients want empathy and better service delivery. Empathy means a true understanding of pressures on the client.

And better service delivery means, for example, lawyers who return phone calls and emails, who deliver to expected turnaround time, who understand the client’s risk tolerance, and who budget accurately and deliver to budget. It’s simply no longer enough to just have the right answer.”

These are tough expectations. But I know some truly excellent lawyers who can, and DO, deliver on these expectations on a regular basis. At the end of the day, we’re in a service business. And while the results absolutely matter, the process is often equally as important, and clients are pointing out that lawyers and law firms can no longer forget that.

Jordan Furlong: Stay Reactive to be Proactive

Jordan Furlong, Principal of Law21, is a legal market analyst and forecaster, whose advice is to stay reactive to be proactive.

There were many lawyers and law firms who held their breath through the crises of 2008-2009, hoping to come through the other side somewhat unscathed. Many that did knew that it was a signpost for change, but there were still some that breathed a sigh of relief and went back to doing things the way they’d always been done. Bad idea, says Furlong (and many others, for that matter).

He suggests taking a page from his son’s little league coach, and always be on the move so that you’re ready for the next thing that’s coming at you.

The legal market right now is a kaleidoscope of motion – countless elements moving at varying speeds in multiple directions on different planes. If your firm is stationary, it’s going to get hit, repeatedly, from several unexpected directions at once.”

This is where a sense of agility and flexibility comes in very handy – you want to be adaptable. But it’s more than just being reactive, cautions Furlong. You want to be SO reactive that you’re actually being PROACTIVE:

Instil not just a sense of urgency among your equity owners and employees, but also an ethic of continuous responsiveness. Help your people understand that this isn’t a one-time crisis, but an ongoing process of market adjustment that requires fluid, real-time reaction. Don’t just wait to see what other firms are doing so you can copy them. Be the firm others try to copy – and do it so well that they don’t stand a chance.”

Firms so often want to be first to be second. But what would happen if you were just first?

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.