Monthly Archives: December 2012

Should law firms look outside the law to find efficiencies?

by Kirsten Hodgson

There’s no doubt that law firms are under increasing pressure to do more with less.

There’s increased competition from non-traditional market players such as LPOs, Axiom style firms and those who’ve registered under ABS’s (at least in the UK and Australia).

Plus, there’s increased pressure on pricing from in-house counsel.

It’s no wonder firms are coming out of denial and are thinking about what they could or should be doing differently.

Richard Susskind was recently quoted in a great Legal Futures article – Susskind: firms starting to embrace new ways of working as ‘legal factories’ loom. In it he talked about how his consulting work has shifted from helping firms understand the need for change, to devising actual strategies to deal with it.

“The question now is ‘How do we go about rethinking the way we deliver our services? How do we go about analysing what we do, how do we go about managing it a different way, how do we decide whether or not we should be doing this routine work internally or externally?’”

He talked about the emergence of a legal process analyst, as

“a species of lawyer because while they need non-legal skills, they also require quite a lot of legal insight to know what the nature of the problem is, how best to break it down, how best to resource it and so forth”.

I am far from an expert in this area, but I do question whether this person does in fact, need to be a lawyer.

Or is it a case of the legal sector ASSUMING this is the case?

I may be wrong, but it strikes me that, what firms are looking to do, is very similar to the process the manufacturing sector has gone through with its focus on lean manufacturing.

I just wonder whether there’s something the legal community can learn from the manufacturing industry?

And from lean manufacturing specialists themselves.

I talked to one of my clients, a membership organisation for manufacturing-based organisations, whose members have been through the lean manufacturing process. They made an interesting observation:

“The output needs to be legal but the process doesn’t have to be.”

It’s a good point and possibly accounts for the rapid rise of LPOs.

So, where’s a good place to start?

Through my own business I’ve found that if you have a strong enough impetus to change, you will.

For me, it was the need to run my business and meet client demands within strict hours, given that I have to pick up my children from school each day.

It got me thinking that a logical starting point might be to ask those performing each task to write down their process as they’re doing it and to say how long it would typically take.

Then ask them to do it in half that time. They may just surprise you by coming up with a streamlined process that gets the same result. An analyst can then be brought in to find further efficiencies.

It’s great that law firms are engaging legal analysts. They should. But does the person really need to be a lawyer?

I’m not so sure…perhaps they could also look to lean manufacturing specialists to see if they can benefit from the process another sector has already been through.

What’s your view?

Will law firm websites even exist in 5 years’ time?

by Kirsten Hodgson

 

And, if so, what will they look like? 

With the growth in functionality of social media platforms, will there be a need for law firms (and other businesses) to maintain their own websites in the future?

In September 2011 I attended the APSMA conference in Sydney where there was a great panel session on ‘the evolution of our roles as professional service marketers’. When asked about how law firm websites have changed over the past 10 years, one of the panelists commented that her firm’s website is becoming much more of a resource centre and that the amount of content on it has grown exponentially.

Great Jakes in New York, have developed a ‘Rainmaker-focused website’, essentially comprising attorney microsites. This setup allows lawyers to customise the information that appears within their individual microsite (which sits within the overall firm site), and to organise that content across multiple pages.

The thing I love about this approach is that it allows lawyers to post reputation-enhancing content into their microsite so it’s linked to them, rather than getting lost elsewhere on the site. This also eliminates the need for lawyers to set up their own work-related blogs that are entirely separate from their firm’s website. I think this is a really smart approach.

As the proliferation of content continues and the channels diversify, I believe it will be those professionals and firms that provide valuable resources and content to their clients, prospective clients and other stakeholders that will prosper…However, it must be easy for them to find that content.

The power is increasingly in the hands of the client:

  • It’s the client who seeks out the info he/she wants
  • It’s the client who compares the relative merits of two or more providers
  • And it’s the client who determines the channels through which he/she will access info.

Having valuable resources which are regularly updated and which are easy to find and access will differentiate professionals/firms and, I believe, influence clients’ buying decisions going forward.

However, the old adage that good content will get found is simply not true any more. It’s those people who are active in the social media space, who have built their reputations, whose content is shared most. Is it good? Most of the time yes, but is there other good content out there? Most definitely. It’s just you don’t always know about it.

While I think engagement via social media will continue to grow, I think in 5 years time websites will become less necessary EXCEPT:

  • as a content repository (i.e. an expanded blog),
  • as a portal to transact business, or
  • as a place to find out a person/organisation’s contact details.

I believe the majority of people will visit these websites via social media platforms (whatever they may be in 5 years’ time) and that the majority of searches will take place within the social media platforms themselves.

What’s your prediction?   

N.B. I actually wrote this post in late 2011 but never posted it. One year on my thoughts are still the same! I’d love to hear yours.

Social media in professional services: Learning from Microsoft Germany

by Kirsten Hodgson

At the recent PSMG conference in London, Annabelle Atchison, Social Media Manager at Microsoft Germany, gave a great presentation on her organisation’s approach to social media.

Social media in professional services: Learning from Microsoft Germany

Microsoft Germany manages over 130 social media channels including multiple blogs, Xing groups, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and Facebook pages.

I love the way the team has developed a coordintated, common-sense approach to social media that empowers employees and is led from the top. This has enabled the organisation to build real communities who provide the Microsoft team with feedback.

How can Professional Services Firms learn from Microsoft Germany’s approach?

Despite Microsoft operating a very different business model from many professional services firms, there were a number of takeaways relevant to professional services firms including:

1. Let employees post to your accounts with their name. They’re your best ambassadors and should be the face of your brand.

2. Have streams from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook link back to your own properties for in-bound lead generation.

3. Social media must be led from the top. The Microsoft Germany leadership team all have and write (or video) their own internal blogs. These are posted to the intranet, which also contains a micro-blog feed. The Microsoft Germany team live social media internally and lead by example.

4. Enable comments on your blogs. Even Microsoft Germany don’t get many comments but Annabelle made a great point when she said “if you don’t give people the option to comment on something, why have a blog?”

5. Set up a social media council comprising people from across your firm. It’s essential to get these people together to make unified decisions on behalf of the firm. Microsoft Germany’s social media council meets monthly with the social media manager preparing and driving the topics. This is supported by clear guidelines (setting out overall guidance and strategy, topics that affect every area, a call for active participation and a Wiki for easy collaboration) and social media playbooks (guidance and strategy for specific products/topics, social media advice for specific targets and target groups, and design, content and measurement requirements).

6. Implement a key, such as a traffic light system, to let people in your firm know what they can and can’t comment on.

7. Run regular social media sessions. Microsoft Germany run them monthly. They’ve also set up an academy to teach Microsoft Partners and employees how to use social media. This could be a great thing to do for your staff and clients.

8. Make sure you monitor the web. Know if people are talking about you so that you can determine whether and, if so, how to respond.

Annabelle’s presentation highlighted the need to coordinate social media efforts across a firm, to give employees the tools, information, guidelines and training they need to become brand ambassadors, and to get your leadership team on board so that this can be led from the top.

What other things do you think firms need to do to get social media working well for them? 

Do you agree with my takeaways from Annabelle’s presentation? Why/why not?