Welcome to the fifth part of our Q&A mini-series with some of the experts we interviewed in our recent Future of Legal Services Report...
RAY OLDFIELD, FOUNDER & CEO, OBJECTIVEMANAGER
Your company has developed software that helps law firms achieve their strategic goals by linking them to more relevant and timely performance reviews. Can you explain a bit more about the challenges law firms typically face when implementing strategy and carrying out appraisals?
“Most law firms are good at writing their strategy—law firm leaders are problem solvers, they are very creative. They write the strategy; they communicate the strategy… the question we help them address is ‘how can I ensure that my strategy gets executed?’. For the law firms we talk to, their main issue is how they can properly align what they’re doing strategically with what people are doing on a day-to-day basis. They are often managing a performance framework that is disconnected from the strategy. They might be running performance management on paper or Excel sheets. Where they do have a technology solution it’s often a legacy HR system that manages individual performance reviews, but it is siloed and not connected back to the strategy. The upshot is that the performance framework can often feel like a compliance process, as opposed to a valuable strategic exercise. That’s typically where we start when we’re talking to customers: How can you get everyone behind the shared strategy? How can you get your people focused on what the firm really wants them to do? How can you align the appraisal process, which typically happens once a year, with the strategy, which is happening every day? And, how can you do that with less confusion, and fewer demands on the precious time of your lawyers?”
How do you convince lawyers that it is a valuable strategic exercise?
“It starts with a mindset. We work with the most successful law firms and the reason they come to us is that they’ve already done two things. Firstly, they’ve provided context: they know why they want to do this and they can see the benefit for the firm and the individuals. If [the lawyers] don’t see that, they’re just not going to do it—they’ve got too much other stuff to do. Secondly, they have strong leadership in place. Specifically, a leadership team that can say ‘yes the numbers are obviously important, we’ve got to run a business, but we’re also going to reward and recognise collaboration and delivery of the strategic objectives, because that’s what will drive growth’.”
How important will collaboration be in shaping how law firms work with clients in the future?
“The one thing that has hit the agenda more than anything else from a strategic point of view is collaboration. The evidence shows that, if law firm leaders can get their lawyers to collaborate with each other around clients, they will do more work, of a higher value, for those clients. And that’s a quid pro quo; the client gets a better service because they’re getting a broader service from their law firm, and the firm makes more money from higher value work. Law firms are already adopting a more collaborative approach and I’ve seen it work brilliantly where two law firms collaborate and work together on one transaction. There’s a lot of talk about legal tech trends at the moment, specifically how AI is going to help deliver legal services in the future. That’s great, but the real difference will come when law firms start to use technology to collaborate to the benefit of their clients and provide legal services with the best teams working together.”
How far away are we from that happening?
“It’s here now; clients are already demanding greater collaboration, whether it’s internally within firms or externally across firms. Our technology can help law firms identify the best opportunities to fully service a client and get the partners collaborating across the practice groups to really make the most of that. It’s a big issue for law firms because not collaborating has two consequences—it means potentially they’re not servicing the client as well as they could be, but it's also a missed revenue opportunity. At the moment, they just don’t know how much money they are leaving on the table, so this is where our software can help—by identifying those gaps and opportunities.”
How well are law firms embracing technology?
“Law firm leadership teams are very open to adopting technology to drive change and better serve clients. There is a real appetite for it. The challenge, as with all technologies, is getting people within the organisation comfortable with it and onboard. But even in the last five years since we’ve been in the market we’ve seen a massive difference in the way leadership teams engage with the firm to make sure technology gets adopted in the context of a greater change-management plan. In the past they would sometimes just throw out the software and hope that people used it.”
What plans do you have to further develop your tech?
“The next level is to show firms what their true transactional diversity looks like. They might know that, at a firm wide level, their gender diversity is good, or getting better, but ultimately what does it look like when they’re delivering a large corporate transaction? Is it still diverse? That’s what a lot of firms are wrestling with now. Beyond that we’re constantly developing our platform to make sure we’re delivering on our mission to use our legal sector expertise to help our customers align their strategy and performance through user-experience orientated, innovative technology.”
Click here to download the full report.