Digital. Divergent. Differentiated. Is this how you see your future?

By Karen Lee, LinkedIn 


I think the answer is yes, or should be yes, at least from a legal practice management perspective, especially after learning valuable lessons from the 15th annual ALPMA Summit "Tomorrow’s Firm: Digital, Divergent, Differentiated".

As Industry Advisor for SAI Global, I get to hear and see a lot of industry events. ALPMA events are always among my top favourites. This year, for three full days from 9 September to 11 September, legal practice managers from all around Australia and from New Zealand packed the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre to attend the 2015 ALPMA summit. No doubt you would have already heard from delegates that the place was filled with positive energy and excitement. Clearly everyone in attendance wanted to be there and people were thrilled to be there. After all, there was indeed much to learn from industry experts and thought leaders. ALPMA’s annual summit has always been well attended by loyal delegates and strongly supported by world-class speakers and a group of knowledgeable and reputable sponsors, exhibitors and partners. This year’s event was no exception.

I have always thought that the pre-summit master class workshops on day one of the event are a great introduction to two further days of intense and inspiring presentations. Personally, I love the way the workshops help attendees make a smooth transition between managing their own busy practices and re-focusing their minds on the hot issues that the summit program will be tackling. What I don’t like is that you could only attend one workshop stream – unless you have worked out how to clone yourself! This year, while the Stream A workshop by business strategy expert Tim Williams of US-based Ignition Consulting Group was clearly very popular, the Stream B workshop by Canadian legal industry analyst and commentator, Jordan Furlong, was not one to miss. I have heard a lot about “NewLaw”. I am sure you have too. And I have certainly read commentary on how “NewLaw” delivers legal services via innovative structures and in a flexible manner. What I have not come across until Jordan’s master class was hands-on advice for “traditional” firms of all sizes on integrating “NewLaw” features into the practice (and business) of law. My observation is that the ability of a firm to apply technology to the performance of legal tasks is highly valued, and this technology theme continued well into the presentations on the following days of the summit. For example, David Smith of Smithink2020 shared his insights on how to maximise the opportunities that new technologies could deliver. David went on to facilitate a panel discussion, aptly titled “Innovative Firms in Technology”. I only like panel discussions with the right mix of panellist, and I must say attendees were certainly not disappointed by an expert panel comprised of Matthew Burgess from View Legal, James Vickery from IKnow IT, Russell Wright from Gilbert + Tobin, andWarrick McLean from Coleman Greig Solicitors. These firms have started the journey forward, and what they have shared with legal practice managers in attendance, in particular regarding the challenges they have had to overcome in order to reap the benefits of technology, was simply priceless. The conversation was engaging, and this panel discussion, as well as the closing panel discussion “Tomorrow’s Firm: Digital, Divergent, Differentiated – DEBATED!” was a real highlight.

I have chatted to many people about this year’s summit. One attendee told me that the two messages that stuck in her mind were: (1) it is so important to get your processes right before deciding on what features or tasks you need automated, then you could choose the relevant enabling technologies, and (2) when choosing technology, look at whether it facilitates collaboration. I cannot agree with her more, especially regarding the second point. The human aspect is just as important as the technology, and I have very recently written about this for ALPMA.

What about you? What does digital, divergent, and differentiated mean to you? Post a comment and let me know. Don’t forget ALPMA has a knowledge bank that houses articles relevant to legal practice managers. You can find my articles there too.

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