There are many challenges to the legal profession in 2019 and beyond. One challenge is the difficulty for lawyers and firms to differentiate themselves in a very saturated industry.
With that in mind, one would assume that every lawyer, partner and firm will allocate some time over the week to work on marketing and business development related initiatives. This is not the case.
Legal Challenges in 2019 and beyond
One hurdle may be the adoption of innovation in a very conservative profession. Some still believe that quality legal service is enough to keep the business running in this tough market.
The other side of the coin is the simplicity to market yourself to different segments in the legal market. With an increase in innovation and technology, the very conservative legal industry is slowly adopting and progressing and with it, vetren attorneys, partners and firms.
Legal Marketing: Not What It Used To Be
The legal industry is undergoing an enormous change. That includes marketing. Attorneys and firms can no longer rely on traditional marketing such as print advertisements, direct mail, newsletters, and flyers to do the work - and they don't.
Lawyers are on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin and are doing what they are expected.
The bottom line is that in 2019 and beyond, even the legal profession is becoming more humanized. Attorneys are people and clients (big and small) won’t accept a distant lawyer that speaks a language they do not understand.
Lawyers are already using Instagram and Snapchat to share stories, some professional and some personal. It is the right mix of both to build that trust and rapport that attracts clients. Why is that? Because stories, by their nature, are typically created instantly and are more authentic. This shows the real you and is a great way for potential clients to hear your voice.
For Solo practitioners and small firm the challenge is time and resources (and they don’t have both). If you’re offering a free consultation, consider offering it via video-chat. Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp makes it easier to connect with potential clients anytime, anywhere.
For bigger firms, it’s a different game with partners as “RainMakers”, going after clients and deals. The challenge here is different: how to go after big accounts without selling too much and at the end, it comes down to the culture. Firms are now becoming clients’ partners for success - if you win, we win. New offerings such as client services and support are emerging.
Conservative Going Progressive
Innovation should start from within. If a partner at a firm does not value the importance of one marketing initiative or is not open to embrace new technology, then most likely such a move will never take place.
Even today there is a big disconnect between law firm leadership and associates on how they perceive innovation at a firm. This Canadian study by McGill University (2017) suggests that Canadian firms use Innovation as a marketing tool and don’t actually take action.
So, where this resistance and lack of will to act is coming from? There are a few reasons for that. And while the billable-hour is still what matters most for firm leadership, clients are more interested in “value-added” services, and by that I mean helpful tools for free.
Saying that, if there is a way for firms to their clients so they could lower their expensas using technology and innovative approach, firms that will be quick to react will win every client’s heart.
What is legal innovation in 2019 and beyond? Different firms have different approaches as there are different ways to innovate in the legal industry. Below are just a few examples that shows disruption has started already and is gaining speed.
Orrick is a great example. The firm allows associates to put 50 hours of billing credit towards innovation projects.
In addition, in 2018 Orrick announced a new corporate venture fund to support legal-tech innovation, with Orrick typically acting as a beta customer.
Through Orrick Labs (the part of the firm’s approach to transform the delivery of legal services), they develop new technologies not available in the market, to engage the firm’s lawyers and staff in innovation, ranging from hackathons to other incentives.
Reed Smith also gives attorneys up to 50 hours of billable hour credits for putting time in new innovations. This is a great way to change what people think about what can be done and the mindset of attorneys across the firms.
Robert Garmaise, Fasken’s Chief Innovation Officer is taking a product point of view. From our conversation, he tells me they asked themselves: “How can we create products to help clients consume legal service in a different way?” This changes processes and creates new tools.
The 156-year-old Toronto-based firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt has created a platform called Osler Works that automates a variety of tasks for clients at a lower cost than usual. In the past two years, the firm has launched four innovative tools that supports their clients.
How to Start Innovating
Innovation doesn’t start in a day. It requires time and resources like anything else. How open are you to legal innovation? Ask yourself the following:
Are you open to change long time processes?
Do you allocate funds for innovation efforts such as platforms and apps for client needs?
Do you use any legal technology at your firm?
Does your firm have someone dedicated to the responsibility of law firm innovation?
You can always start by reading a book. The short list below is a must-read books for Lawyer that wants to innovate:
Tomorrow’s Lawyers (Richard Susskind) - the book introduces the new legal landscape and offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law.
Kill the Company, (Lisa Bodell) tells companies how to start an “innovation revolution” and can be a great place to start.
For more inspiration, you can look at the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University,
Toronto, Ca, or Reinvent Law (the Legal Innovation Hub), Frankfurt, Germany, and see what innovative legal-tech startups are doing right now.
What is Next
It looks like some companies are more open to innovation and technology than others. This is no coincidence.
People drive change and if people are not open to it, change will not come on it’s own.
There is something in the right mix of people.
The mix of four generations that are working side by side in today’s workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y that is the key. In 2019 and beyond, everyone should speak up and every voice should be heard.
About the Author
He consults lawyers and startups on marketing, operations, strategy and business-development related matters. He is also the Co-Founder and Chief of Growth at Legably, a platform for connecting freelance attorneys with other attorneys for short-term