Long-time readers of Zen may remember when we first started talking about the future of the law firm and the idea of “SmartLaw” in 2016, when HighQ asked the question “What do you believe lawyers and law firms need to do to prepare for the future of legal services?” Over the course of several posts, we delved into the answers of a number of industry experts, which supported the idea that clients, culture, and technology would be key.

Since then, HighQ observes that the concept of SmartLaw has evolved:

Future-focused law firms have found success putting the concept to work as they create amazing client experiences, adopt a culture of change and use technology to empower greater efficiency. Even so, as the industry continues to change, so must the SmartLaw concept.

In addition to the original three areas of focus, we now believe that firms must also prioritise data and process. Together, these five pillars of clients, culture, technology, data and process create SmartLaw 2.0. These key areas will be critical to the success of firms in the future.”

Bearing these pillars in mind, HighQ asked a number of experts again, “What do you believe lawyers and law firms need to do to prepare for the future of legal services?”

Today, I’ll share my response with you, and we’ll look at some of the other contributions over future posts (I’m honored to be in such esteemed company in this eBook!). To access the full eBook, click here – I urge you to read it, because there is some brilliant, and practical advice in there.

To prepare for the future, lawyers and law firms need to embrace collaboration. In her book, Smart Collaboration, Heidi Gardner extols the virtues of this for law firms, which she defines as “work[ing] together to integrate their separate knowledge bases and skill sets to form coherent, unified solutions.”

Historically, firms and lawyers have been extremely successful operating in silos, but the new marketplace demands more of us than that. With globalization and the financial crisis of 2008 came the changing of the guard—clients realized that they were the ones in charge. As a result, their needs are what is driving change in the industry.

Although change has been slow in many ways, it continues to build, and the firms and lawyers that take advantage of the skills and opportunities available are the ones that will prosper in the future marketplace. To do that, they need to be prepared to answer the challenges that clients are putting to them—and those are no longer problems that require only one type of expertise.

More and more, clients want the types of solutions that are only found when experts work together. Not only is our unique expertise more useful when paired with a complementary one, but we often can bring out more efficient and effective solutions when we work together, rather than apart.

The fascinating and exciting thing about the current and future landscape is that it is about both human and technological solutions. We can look at what challenges exist and then work together to identify the solutions to meet them, whether that’s for our own firms or for our clients’ needs. These solutions also extend past requiring strictly legal knowledge as well. Firms of the future will be made up of more than just lawyers, but will also include other types of versatile professionals, with lawyers themselves needing to alter the way that they work and learn.

When we put the entire picture together, professionals within law firms will be able to develop effective, valuable solutions for clients that satisfy them, are profitable for firms and clients and differentiate them in the marketplace. They’ll do this through collaboration, having strong processes in place to make efficient use of their resources, embracing technology in the way that makes sense for their firm and their clients, and consistently reviewing and analyzing their results to ensure that they’re repeating what works, and addressing any challenges that arise. This is vastly different to the way many law firms operate today, but as the industry demands more change, firms will be forced to change with it.

I encourage you to read the full eBook, and also to add your thoughts to the discussion – how do you feel about these five pillars? What do you see as essential for lawyers and law firms of the future?