Firm leaders see concrete results from being technology trailblazers

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While some law firm leaders believe some competitors are overstating their technology programs, other are seeing tangible grains from their initiatives.

Some law firms that are pioneers in investing in and adapting technology are reporting benefits of being ahead of the competition in the area, according to the second report in the “BDO Law Firm Leadership Series 2017.”

“We used a lull in the market to do research. We started using technology and redesigned the process. Then the market came back in and now we have the fastest-growing practice in the industry,” one law firm leader told the professional services firm.

The study also found that the larger and more global the law firm is, the more likely it is to want to pioneer new technology ahead of the market.

Nonetheless, other law firm leaders said that partners may be worrying too much about not keeping up with rivals in the development and use of technologies.

“We have a group of partners who assume you need to be at the forefront of technological change. Otherwise they feel they can’t build their practices and therefore management is slipping behind. There is always a perception that you are not keeping pace. But I expect the reality is that everyone is behind,” a law firm leader told BDO.

Law firm leaders said that the biggest challenge to keeping up with technology is cultural change. Cultural change across the firm was cited by 29% of law firm leaders surveyed, while cultural change within the partnership was cited by 20%.

There was a contrast between answers given by leaders of national firms and those that pilot global law firms. There were twice as many among global law firm leaders who believed cultural change among partners is the main challenge. National law firm leaders were three times more likely to say the challenge was firm-wide cultural change.

Another barrier to keeping up with technology is funding new investment, the leaders said. Global firm leaders were more than twice as likely to identify this challenge than the rest of the law firm leaders, which may be due to the sheer size of the organisations they oversee. However, one firm said that there is no need to “spend, spend, spend,” and that funding should only be allocated when there’s clear client need.

Respondents also said that hiring people with the right expertise and skills, non-legal business professionals within the firm, and cybersecurity and risk were barriers for their firms to adapting technology.

One leader said that the challenge is cross-pollinating expertise. “You can’t just dump a computer scientist into each team,” the boss said.


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