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The numbers and facts behind change…

June 29, 2010

We have so much to talk about since my previous post where I shared my interest in how law firms are changing.  There have been several surveys and articles since we started our conversation that will give us deeper insight into the changes that are real and happening every day.  It will take us some time to explore them all, but for today, let’s start with a high level overview.

  • The CompTIA survey, Law Firms Poised to Hike IT Spending and Embrace New Technology Solutions,  tells us that nearly half of the US law firms will increase IT spending in 2010.  Look for that spending to focus on mobility, remote functionality, disaster recovery, data storage, records management, e-discovery, case management, litigation support.  Firms, around 14%, will also start to explore cloud computing and software-as-a service technologies.

The highlights for me:  Increased interest in mobility, cloud computing and remote technology signals to me that workflow habits are changing.  The office as the command center will be less important as tasks can be performed from any location.  That not only changes how client work is performed, but it also changes who is performing the bulk of the work.

  • The Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition survey is a treasure trove of informational goodness for us to analyze together.

We can expect more price competition, increased use of project management, continued change in lawyer staffing structure.  Expect more lateral hires instead of first year lawyers hires.  Laterals bring new business and revenue to firms on day one.  And unfortunately, those support staff changes in numbers are not expected to be reversed, which means – changes in how client work is performed and changes in who is performing the work.  (Are you starting to notice a trend already?)

A task force of the New York State Bar Association kicked off a month long examination of the legal profession on Wednesday, with the goal of producing a report that will influence fundamental changes in the law firm billing structure, improvements in legal education and training, providing better work-life balance, and harnessing new technologies.

“Our focus is not only to look at the future of the profession but to change it,”Andrew Brown of Brown & Hutchinson said.

But it is the Marketing and Business Development and Other Trends and Issues sections that caught my attention.  Social media will continue to grow and client teams will continue to prove valuable.  While social media is generally considered Twitter and Facebook and blocked in most law firms, behind the firewall, applications are being developed and have the potential to change how we communicate with each other.  We’ll see this evolve as millennials move up into positions with more authority or gain influence with decision-making. Working as client teams is another change away from the current workflow. Client teams may include contractors or outsourced team members.

If not, may I respectfully suggest that you take the time to read it?  There is so much for us to consider from this publication.

  • A new resource for us to consume, Briefing e-zine from the Legal Support Network.

The publication was released on Monday, June 28th, so as of this post, I have not fully digested the content.  But Richard Susskind, author of The End of Lawyers? provides an overview of the changes he sees. And there’s a link to a video excerpt from Tom Baldwin, CKO at Reed Smith LLP, explaining to us the premium on efficiency and knowledge managements evolution to support how we do business with clients. Susskind and Baldwin are incredible thought leaders and worth the investment of your time.

So things are changing; but what does that mean to legal IT and learning professionals?  It simply means that we grow and evolve our methods of helping our legal professionals.  It means that we take a step back from the technology and look at the work being performed and match up the technology tool to the individual performing the task and the purpose of the task.  We become Performance Consultants.  Char LeMaire penned a nice article on performance consulting in the September 2009 Peer to Peer magazine – From Trainer to Performance Consultant.

It means that you and I start working together to understand what is changing and start preparing ourselves to meet the challenges of the changes. Your homework before our next chat, will be to look at some of these surveys and articles to see what’s happening around us. Think about what intrigues you, what worries you and where you think we need to focus our efforts together.

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