How Law Firms and In-House Counsel Are Navigating Changing Technology

 

Moderator:

Nat Slavin, Partner, Wicker Park Group

 

Speakers:

Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Castlight Pratik Patel, VP, Legal Business Solutions, Elevate Services
 
Mick Cox, Executive Director, Legal Operations, Office of the General Counsel, University of California Office of the President
 

 

“Navigating” is the perfect term for discussing legal technology because it implies both a degree of uncertainty and a method for managing it. We’ll get right to the point:

Technology isn’t a “necessary evil”

Technology is available to help lawyers more effectively provide client services. It is therefore incumbent upon firms to have people that can support the technology. Integrating new technologies doesn’t mean everybody at your firm has to be tech savvy; it requires strong leadership and judgment to bring the right technologies on board and get people to adapt and thrive.

Pratik emphasized that there are two layers of support you need to provide lawyers:

  1. Categorize and organize work appropriately.
  2. Know whether they have the resources needed to get work done, including data intelligence, technology and workflows/processes.

There’s technology that organizes information within documents, eliminating time-consuming contractual work. Tools like billing software and contract management support are also increasingly needed to support legal functions.

The panelists advised that you seek out a suite of tools that come with support services and integrate well with one another. The best tools cover a number of different functions, including managing and interpreting data and analytics.

Technology can help firms move from making decisions based on tribal knowledge to more data-driven, methodical and informed choices, Mick pointed out. It can digest information far more quickly than people. If algorithms and data can help a lawyer or legal team prepare a more effective brief, they should be leveraged.

Process

One point that’s key to legal marketing is that a lot of the challenges lawyers and firms face relate to the business of law rather than the practice of law.

On that note, Pratik pointed out that “there’s not a mindset of installing process-oriented people around the lawyers.” He argued that there should be.

A bit of process training around how to do consulting work can make lawyers more powerful. Support services for lawyers should empower them with guidance rather than being prescriptive. A good onboarding process begins with saying, “We’re not going to lay out the process for you; we’re just going to guide you through the decision-making.”

One size fits one

This is a theme that came up in one form or another in at least half the sessions at LMA Tech West: Know thy firm. There’s not one solution that works for every firm.

Client Service Relationship Managers who aren’t practicing law are becoming more common in the legal industry, providing business representation to help firms manage their business operations. This is often the person designated to manage marketing technology as well.

Broadly speaking, companies providing legal marketing and business intelligence services need to know a lot about a legal business to capture a prospect’s attention.

Data, relationships and customer service

An aspirational goal for law firms and firms providing ancillary services should always be to use data-driven marketing strategies that solve real problems and guide decisions in real time. Mick pointed out the importance of technical support teams having a sincere sense of empathy for clients and the challenges they face.

If you provide support to law firms, you should be invested in how effectively firms paying for your services are using them. These support services providers help firms to understand usage patterns, strengths and weaknesses so they can use your services more optimally. If your firm uses data-driven marketing services, you should likewise have a handle on how they’re being used and to what effect.

These services matter because data-driven decisions help law firm management marketing executives determine where they’re going to invest their time and money.

Jennifer emphasized the need for quarterly retrospectives examining how effectively technology has been used to guide decisions and how it should be used going forward to meet business objectives.

Pratik spoke of an untapped potential in the legal industry, which is the ability for this audience collectively to influence what happens in law schools. He would like to see law schools train aspiring lawyers to be more well-rounded, to understand client needs and cultivate business partnerships. Customer service matters a lot more in the legal industry than it did 10 years ago.

Strategic conversations and relationships characterized by mutual trust are central to the effective deployment of legal marketing technology. Neither party should have a fixed mindset, or the business objectives of both parties will suffer.