This week, I attended the Beaton Capital, Clients and Firms of the Future conference in Sydney. This was a valuable day with some very insightful input from Ross Dawson, Eric Chin, Pete Williams and Victor Jiang ,just to name a few.
There were a range of very relevant themes and discussion had around the challenges and opportunities that exist for professional services firms. We heard from legal clients, HP and CBA, around the shift in the way they consume legal services and what they expect from the firms they engage with.
A range of interactive workshops explored how client expectations are changing and will continue to change. Some of the common themes included a need for:
– Preventative legal services rather than reactive engagements
– Outcome focused services and pricing
– Tighter integration with clients.
Digital disruption was also a hot topic, with much discussion around how technology will impact on professional services in the future. Technology was broadly considered both a threat and an opportunity, depending primarily on if firms were willing to explore and embrace the opportunities, or sit back and watch it happen around them. Technology was accepted as being critical in enabling tighter client integration, access to variable workforces and to deliver on the need to provide greater capability, capacity and velocity.
There was a general consensus on the need for professional services providers to change in order to remain relevant, however most appreciated that change was very difficult for traditional firms. It was also acknowledged just how easy it is for innovation to be discarded by legal management and partners with two very simple and destructive words, “prove it”.
Many saw the need for firms to respond much faster to opportunities, to learn fast and fail fast if necessary. While it seems very unnatural for law firms to be agile and experimental, this was considered to be critical to remain competitive in a faster paced and more competitive environment.
Technology alone will not make a firm competitive in 5 or 10 years from now. Technology is the enabler or the ‘vehicle’, it is absolutely needed, but the firm, as the ‘driver’, will determine how far or how fast a firm would like to go. The systems and technologies needed to support ‘NewLaw’ thinking are available today. Cloud computing is one way that firms can become much more dynamic and agile, it provides access to systems that were once reserved for those with big budgets and teams dedicated just to keeping them running, yet most firms are still not taking full advantage of this.
As a team of legal IT consultants exposed to a range of technologies and law firms, we often see firms ‘tinker at the edges’, to gain efficiencies and reduce costs, yet few are prepared to rethink their approach and really consider what is possible if the status quo is challenged. As written about previously, few firms consider using technology to drive revenue and create opportunity. More often technology is applied to help to reduce costs or improve on something that already exists in some way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and I was inspired to see so many leaders in the professional services sector engaged in challenging the norm and really thinking about what clients will need and expect in the not too distant future.
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