We attended the first London edition of the Janders Dean knowledge management conference last week. We’re veterans of Justin’s Sydney conference, so when the event turned up on our doorstep in London’s Liverpool Street we could hardly pass up the opportunity to attend, exhibit and speak.
We heard some fascinating talks throughout the day showing some fascinating case studies of how a selection of firms manage their legal projects and their knowledge internally, and one of the big themes we identified from each of the talks we saw was the focus on the client. We have, after all, entered the age of the customer and law is no exception to this.
Andrew Baker of Seyfarth Shaw delivered the keynote, in which he talked us through how Seyfarth has been practicing what he calls “lean law” for the past 10 years. This type of legal project management takes concepts from lean, agile and Six Sigma to drive process improvement, improve the delivery of legal services and drive growth in the firm. Ultimately, however, these methods are centred around the customer: identifying exactly what the customer wants to buy and how to make delivering that more effective.
Andrew explained that there is a three-pronged approach to lean law: process, people and platform. He described how he and his colleagues at Seyfarth have mapped out a process from this framework, and use this to define their approach and manage legal workstreams in a more simplified way. Next they bring the right mix of people together in the project team from different disciplines to best meet the needs of the client. Finally, Andrew spoke about platform, or technology. He explained the need for modular technology that allows for the design of creative solutions and transparency with clients by allowing them access to their transaction within the platform.
Andrew rounded off his talk by reinforcing the need to realign resources to respond directly to clients’ needs. He states that the keys to change in law firms as prioritising client experience, thinking and designing with clients in mind, getting in front of clients in person, and embracing difference and change. For an in-depth write up of Andrew’s talk with added perspective, check out David Halliwell’s (of Pinsent Masons) article on LinkedIn.
HighQ’s CSO Stuart Barr took to the podium in the afternoon to talk about the the value of collaboration in legal knowledge management. Stuart provided added context to Andrew’s talk, describing the state of the legal landscape which is experiencing massive disruption with increased pressure to reduce fees, competition from alternative law firms, and the need for firms to focus more heavily on clients’ needs.
Stuart explained that in order to remain competitive in this new client-centric legal environment, firms need to increase client loyalty by demonstrating added value and engaging with clients by giving them access and insight to the work going on in their transaction. As Andrew suggested, by giving clients access to the platform where their transaction is being managed they gain added value from the transparency of the legal work, being able to see not only financial data but also they can monitor the efficiency of the legal team.
The following talk came from Tom Slate at Clifford Chance, who walked us through the practice of Continuous Improvement, which he practices and helps implement at the firm. Tom defines Continuous Improvement as continually questioning and examining the way we do things in order to find better approaches in the future, practiced through a structured methodology that follows project management principles.
Like Andrew and Stuart, Tom placed clients at the heart of this methodology, explaining that the basis for planning legal projects should be based on what activities clients would be willing to pay for and what they would not. Based on this, Tom explained how he encourages knowledge management and legal project teams to streamline their activities as much as possible, and ensure that they use the best resources for each project, reducing unnecessary work and excessive billing while achieving more from each project.What emerged from all three of these talks was the fact that a combination of a lean methodology and providing clients with greater transparency is key to getting ahead in law today. With the array of choices available to all legal clients today, firms can no longer afford to follow their traditional practices; change is essential to success.