The opportunities for digital workplace adoption by law firms

by | Nov 24, 2014 | Digital workplace, Information Management, Intranets

Since February I have been working on a digital workplace project for a major global law firm. It has been a fascinating project as it is taking place against the background of very significant changes in the business of law, especially in what is often referred to as Big Law. This is a the term applied to the top 100 law firms. the top thirty of which have revenues in excess of $1 billion. The Harvard Law School Centre on the Legal Profession has just launched a new bi-monthly subscription journal entitled The Practice that will report on and analyse the changing market for legal services. In the preamble to the launch issue there is this statement

“Sophisticated clients have more access to information about legal services and what they need from those services. They’re demanding more transparency, asking firms to take things that used to come all packaged together—such as “litigation” or “deal work”—and unbundle and array those services across increasingly global supply chains. Such market forces are accelerating a move toward efficiency and what is euphemistically called “value” billing, in which work is priced not by input, but by the value of a firm’s output to clients. Vague, inexact measures of quality are no longer enough.In addition, competition is moving away from reputation or credentials to value as measured by metrics, and from firms to networks.”

What I find fascinating about the situation is the scope it gives to knowledge and information managers to transform the roles they have inside a law firm and build stronger links out to their opposite numbers in clients.Technology is also an important element of supporting changing market requirements and it is interesting to note the very rapid growth of UK collaboration software vendor HighQ in identifying specific requirements of the law business for closer collaboration internally and between a law firm and its clients. In terms of digital workplaces it could well be that major law firms move quickly to become significant adopters of digital workplace good practice, and it will be interesting to see the outcomes of the 2015 Digital Workplace Trends survey in this respect. The techniques now being adopted by law firms are largely standard practice in other professional services organisations and it will be interesting to see whether law firms start to entice the best KIM managers from these organisations to join them. Law is a very competitive market, dependent on the skills and reputation of senior partners.  Almost daily there are reports of either individual partners, or small groups, moving from one law firm to another, a substantial challenge to knowledge managers.  It is also a very conservative business and it will be interesting to see how quickly partners respond to the opportunities and challenges of digital legal workplaces in the next couple of years.

If you are a KIM manager and like to explore some of these issues at a breakfast meeting in London on 9 December book a free place on Eventbrite.

Martin White