By Guest Blogger Ari Kaplan, Attorney, Author & Keynote Speaker at the 2012 ALPMA National Summit
Following the release of Reinventing Professional Services, I had the privilege of touring North America with voice productivity application powerhouse, BigHand, to share creative ideas with law firm decision-makers from 12 cities in two countries.
Although diverse in their roles, the attendees were unified in their vision for the future of law firm progress. They engaged in a collective conversation on realignment that captured the essence of the next decade: reinvention in the recovery.
That reinvention characterizes a dual transformation taking place in the legal industry. Individuals are adapting to an environment that prizes creativity and collaborative communication alongside performance and leadership. Organizations are welcoming a new era of efficiency and transparency to match their already laser-like focus on results and responsiveness.
Driven by higher expectations internally from firm management and externally from key clients, legal professionals are searching for ways to distinguish themselves in a crowded and talented marketplace. With the recovery in its early stages, they now have a tremendous opportunity to reshape the organizations with which they work by making suggestions for incremental innovations. These include accessible changes in operations, staffing and culture.
Seek Small Shifts
While clients were once driven simply by results, they now want performance coupled with precision in its execution. In the same way that individuals must routinely evaluate their own level of productivity, organizations must conduct an analysis of their operations. From practice groups and administrative departments to client service teams and management, start by developing a questionnaire to uncover potential areas for improvement.
Instead of focusing on massive reorganization of your firm, seek opportunities for small shifts. Focus on a single group or minor program and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with it. Simply begin a dialogue with general questions about successes and failures, allowing the responses to drive the nature of the discussion. The approach does not need to be perfect, but it should be relevant, responsive and refreshing.
Hone Talent More Holistically
For most firms to succeed, they must tap the wisdom of the entire internal community, rather than those who represent a select constituency. As leaders manage increasing levels of time pressure and client concerns, firms must begin experimenting with crowd-sourcing potential ideas for implementation of their future goals. From senior staff to senior associates and from experienced paralegals to accounting personnel, each individual may have unique ideas for growth and market positioning to share if given the opportunity.
That collective ownership of a firm’s success is a hallmark of reinvention. The management committee now needs insights from leaders of administration, finance, professional development, marketing, public relations, and information technology to support novel proposals. Firms should consider acknowledging that contribution by including staff profiles online. Those responsible for innovating billing, training, staffing, and other aspects of this transformation could materially impact future pitches.
In an era of redefinition, an integrated approach is increasingly attractive to clients and prospects.
About the Author
An attorney and the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace(Wiley, 2011), Ari Kaplan will be delivering the keynote address at the 2012 ALPMA Summit: Change & Growth: Leading Your Business. ALPMA Members can take advantage of a great Member-Only Deal to receive the audio version of his first book, The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008), completely free.