In case you missed it (or want to relive a FLIP milestone), here’s a recap of what we discussed in our first-ever FLIP Webinar! In the panel moderated by FLIP’s own Noemie Alintissar-Mooney, our panellists Bill Novomisle and Gillian Kang of KorumLegal, and Tan Shen Kiat of Kith & Kin Law Corporation shared their insights on best practices for small and mid-sized firms to engage in innovation.
1. Given the uncertainty of the times due to COVID-19, why should firms engage in change and innovation now?
“Opportunity is coming, the question is how will firms prepare for it?”
Gillian: Innovation doesn't necessarily mean a new product or offering, but a better way of doing something. In times of uncertainty especially, good procedures will carry you through as you can more quickly regroup to take in new information as it comes along.
Bill: Economic analysts foresee the effects of COVID-19 as analogous to those of 9/11, in that it is an external shock being applied to the global system. Upon recovery, growth and demand are likely to spike. The COVID-19 ‘downtime’ presents an opportunity for law firms to re-assess how they approach, service and deepen relationships with clients, to prepare for the overwhelming demand during recovery.
Shen Kiat: Given the support from the government and judiciary, it’s a great time for small and medium firms to change. The cost of becoming a tech-enabled firm is more accessible than it's ever been - the availability of subscription-based software unlocks capabilities which were previously the domain of larger law firms.
2. How can firms start figuring out their efficiency blind spots?
“Innovation for innovation’s sake will not be helpful.”
Bill: Start by asking yourself ‘What would pose the biggest hurdle in taking on additional work?’ It could be billing, client onboarding or some other operational process. You don't want to miss out on opportunities because you weren't prepared to capitalise on them.
Shen Kiat: Innovation for Kith & Kin Law Corporation meant re-looking the firm’s business model to make it as client-centric as possible - the starting point of Lighten-Up! Consulting for us was to record time spent on tasks, this was painful but necessary in order to pinpoint inefficiencies in a particular process. The firm eventually chose to use Clio because it doesn't have an accounting feature. For accounts, we use Xero - a dedicated accounting software. The latter allows us to engage a remote bookkeeper for 2 hours weekly instead of a full-time headcount. Assess your firm’s process needs and align them with your firm's culture.
Curious about Shen Kiat's experience with Lighten-Up! Consulting? Find out more.
Gillian: Lawyers sometimes forget that it’s not about what they think the customer needs, but what the customer actually does need. It’s important to carry out a user experience and customer journey exercise to find out what the true pain points are, and enable lawyers ensure their processes serve to address these pain points.
Image credit: integrify.com
3. Can you share some concrete examples or use cases of process getting more efficient?
"When you know you don't have to keep looking out for human errors, it opens up so much bandwidth…I don’t need AI to dramatically change my life”
Shen Kiat: In the client onboarding process, human error in recording a client’s particulars commonly results in additional Court applications for rectification. We use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to scan the client’s IDs, it extracts immediate data and enables the back-end staff to open a client matter. The accurate and consistent collection of ID details saves a lot of time.
Evan Wong of Checkbox, one of our GLIDE alumni, chimed in with his thoughts on automation. To Evan, tech isn't the answer to efficiency; it's a mere medium. In his view, the 3 different layers to tech for law firms are foundational, scaling and disruption. Automation can be unlocked in the second and third layers - where the firm’s capabilities are developed to take on more work, and through the creation of new revenue streams & products to delight customers respectively. The second and third layers are dependent on the first foundational layer and good processes.
Image credit: VComply Editorial
4. How can one overcome a law firm's resistance to change?
“Change should be communicated differently to each different stakeholder (e.g. to a partner, associates or support staff) to be inspirational and practical at all levels."
Gillian: Authenticity and open communication is key. Change management requires the partners to consider the effects of the change for everyone. Resistance to change will be high if there is no sincere effort to consider how the change impacts everyone else at the firm, as they’ll be thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’.
Bill: Change can be communicated at both inspirational and practical levels. To inspire, consider what potential change could unleash for the firm. Messages of growth and a grandiose vision that makes people dream serve this level. From a practical standpoint, consider how change improves the day-to-day. Messages around work getting done faster, and saving time or money will work well. Change management is an intensive exercise but crucial to successful and impactful change.
Shen Kiat: To convince the management to partake in change, deal with what incentivises management, i.e. any efforts which can bring in more work. Business process re-engineering can help firms find a more institutionalised way to get clients and to understand how to delight their clients.
Image credit: Weidert.com
Delighting clients is a concept alien to lawyers - clients can be happy with your work and the outcome of a case, but the process of reaching that outcome is rarely complimented. Thus, law firms have an unlimited opportunity to differentiate themselves based on the standards of service they provide to their clients.
Giving agency to the client even in a small way, for example allowing them to book meetings via an online scheduler, helps delight your clients and your staff. Existing solutions are out there, find your ‘win-win’ solutions for you and your clients.
5. Finally, what is one thing you’d like everyone to take away from this session?
Bill: Innovation - do it! Most successful firms get there by being introspective and critical of their own processes, firms actively participating in process improvement have never stopped. The time to start is now.
Gillian: You can't keep doing things the same way and expecting a different outcome. If you want improvement, you have got to re-look things and have a different perspective to start making those changes.
Shen Kiat: The winds of change are in your favour. The government, policymakers and Courts are on your side, and potential clients are looking for client-centred firms. Take advantage of this unique position and have the courage to change.
Are you part of a small or medium-sized law firm? Have an appetite to improve efficiency, productivity and delivery of legal services but are not quite sure where to start? Schedule a chat with TeamFLIP.