2020 is just over the rainbow and we explore some of the trends increasingly demanding your attention as you chase not only that pot of gold, but a year and decade of sustained growth. 

1. Legal Tech stampede

Globally, there has been a stampede towards legal tech in recent years. There is an emerging global legal tech community that is reshaping the culture, contours, composition, skillsets, and priorities of the legal industry. Legal tech incubators and accelerators are opening around the globe. The rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) by the in-house community confirms its push to automate high volume/low value tasks to extract more value from lawyers. From using AI to record time and helping firms find extra billable time, some of the world’s largest law firms have adopted the machine learning platforms of some AI suppliers.

Before thinking about AI, all firms should be thinking about Automation and how their firm is reducing administrative, time-consuming tasks. Document Automation is widely adopted in all areas of law and has become a standard offering within most legal technology solutions, but there is much more that can be automated within a lawyer’s working day. Workflow automation can allow firms to better organize and track their progress, while email templating can save time and also standardize communications for less experienced staff. Tasks, data collection, reporting and the billing process are all areas in which significant time can be saved by investing in automation. But it’s also important that automation technology is constantly analyzed and customized to allow your firm to evolve with the ever-changing market. 

The final and most powerful message from across the industry was that legal technology should solve problems, not only for law firms and their lawyers but also for their clients. 

  • How does this technology provide a better value for my client?
  • How can firms better interact with their clients through technology?

By leaving the robotic tasks to the robots, lawyers can focus more on connecting with their clients, innovating their processes and doing what they love – practicing law.

2. Client efficiency more vital than before

This is less of a trend, more of a constant, but as the world markets become ever more intertwined and competitive, meeting and exceeding clients’ demands and expectations is essential. With more law firms to choose from, and the presence of global firms in domestic markets, law firms are increasingly expected to deliver efficiency and value.

With regards to efficiency, implementing the right technology can substantially improve law firm efficiency. When you no longer have to worry about keeping track of your cases, billing and your due dates, this saves you time to focus on your client. Using a practice management software, you gain oversight over every aspect of your firm’s performance thereby helping you to improve how you work and client experience. But, if you have nothing in place at the moment, this can also be as simple as storing a centralized database of completed deals and cases in the cloud, making them easily accessible for pitches, PR opportunities, awards, legal directories, one-pagers, bios, website content, and so on.

3. Effective communications in the spotlight

The growing impact of IT on the legal sector has placed a heightened premium on “people skills.” What separates human from tech resources is emotional intelligence. Technology is, paradoxically, reminding us of the importance of human social skills. Communicating well with clients is a foundational skill for lawyers. 

From the very first phone call to the final deliverable, each interaction you have with your clients is an opportunity to create client-centered experiences. Always remember that poor client communication is a major factor why clients end relationships, often way more than technical ability, while by contrast, many more people report positive experiences. In an industry where referrals matter and great client service must be the focus, communicating with clients is paramount. 

How well do you know your client? Their values? Their staff? Their interests? In addition to communicating throughout a transaction or case but consider adding content and engaging them OUTSIDE of the matter on which you are advising. The small things add up: Develop a social media calendar and ensure you pass on relevant news; tap into your in-house experience to send relevant client updates; let them know of key industry or networking events. Embrace video on your website – with more outlets competing for eyeballs, people are watching more than they are reading – create LED talks, not TED talks – one-minute videos where you can reel in potential clients. 

Social networking has transformed the practice of law. Legal professionals have a growing number of social media tools at their disposal to accomplish a variety of tasks and career objectives. 

Social networking is changing how attorneys and other professionals recruit, job hunt, network, locate witnesses, manage their careers, and interact with clients. Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all key marketing tools, helping lawyers and legal professionals reach broad audiences and accomplish branding, advertising, and client development goals.

4. Reflect the diversity of your clients 
Considering the fever-pitched demand for diversity and how corporate counsel are increasingly using it as a framework in directing their purchasing power, it makes sense to do not only the right thing but also be aware that doing nothing could lead to reputation and brand issues and loss of business. Get to know your staff. Well. From those associates volunteering on an LGBT phone line or a trainee promoting initiatives around women in leadership, there are many things that may already be taking place within your firm that you are unaware of. 

Client demands for diversity have put diverse lawyers in a position to generate considerable business. The firms that invest in their diverse talent and provide exposure and learning opportunities to hone their business development and leadership skills will reap significant rewards.

What is the employee makeup of your potential clients. Recommend a more inclusive approach. Assemble diverse pitch teams. Foster close relationships between your rainmakers and diverse lawyers to encourage mentoring and sponsorship. Check out your competition and their diversity-related initiatives to see where you stand. 

Furthermore, the legal directories ask too for this content. Chambers and Partners not only ask for this information in their submissions but they host Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) awards and events that recognize excellence in inclusion across the world, and provide opportunities for attendees to create meaningful connections in the world of D&I.

5. Going International: Domestic law firms will go beyond their borders
Having worked in-house at Dentons, the largest law firm in the world, barely a day goes by when firms of this size open a new office in another corner of the globe. However, there are many, many domestic law firms successfully looking outward. 

Our recent involvement at GGI conference in Marrakech highlighted a large number of domestic law firms reaching out through networking, speaking opportunities, alliances and collaborations. The Lawyer and Legal Business offer potential avenues for visibility. Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, Financial Times Special Country Reports, LexisNexis, Forbes and many others offer possibilities for content and thought leadership; and an improved ranking in global directories and international awards – for both the law firms and corporate clients – offer the chance to increase exposure and maximize opportunities. We regularly pick up clients who benefit from that extra support to their in-house or as an exclusive provider.2020 will be the year that the majority of firms awaken to the immense possibilities that a trusted partner can provide. As a result, law firms will get the right team in to get things right first time, saving a lot of expense and frustration in the long run.

Article written by Lee Saunders, Chief Editor at Nishlis Legal Marketing