The law firm of the future cannot just rely on internal resources to stay competitive and successful. It must engage in the surrounding ecosystems and open up to the external world in order to secure maximum agility, attract top talent, and stay updated on all the best-in-class legal tech solutions. All factors that are crucial to delivering a relevant service in the client-centric age. Such is, more or less, the vision for the future of the legal industry that we introduced as “the fluid law firm” in Forum Magazine earlier this year and further elaborated in Legal Tech Weekly.
The concept of the fluid law firm is inspired by Bain & Company's influential report “The Firm of the Future” in which they emphasize the need for companies to value ecosystems and client intimacy over assets and shareholder primacy. The time when you could have a narrow focus on partner-value and short management horizons at the expense of long-term investments are over. Law firms “will be measured by results, not profit-per-partner” as Mark Cohen states in his brilliant Essays on Legal Transformation which also advocates for a more client-centric approach.
The core idea of the fluid law firm is to introduce fluidity to the boundaries of firms and to engage in the ecosystem in which the firm operates. We believe that law firms should, at least, open up to the following ecosystems. Furthermore, all those ecosystems should include and engage clients.
1. The technological ecosystem: Law firms must collaborate with technologists to improve their tech literacy and always be able to offer their clients the best legal tech solutions on the market.
2. The professional ecosystem: The gig economy for lawyers continues to expand as law firms look for agility and full use of the resources while legal professionals search for more personal freedom. That underlines the need for a fluid law firm structure where talent can easily be attracted. Law firms must, therefore, engage in freelance platforms, legal aids and network session.
3. The educational ecosystem: Law schools struggle to prepare young lawyers for a digital future while automation technologies get rid of the repetitive work tasks that newly graduated associates usually practice on to prepare for more complicated tasks. In order to have sufficient amounts of high-skilled talent available, law firms must, therefore, engage in closer collaborations with the educational institution.
The fluid law firm vision might seem futuristic and incomprehensible, but in reality, it consists of very tangible concepts and strategies that are already widely applied by innovative law firms. To emphasise the practical side of the idea, we have published The Manifesto of the Fluid Law Firm that contains concrete advice in the form for 10 ways to make your law firm more fluid. So, let's take a look at a few examples of how some of those are already applied in the current legal industry.
No. 1 “Create tech-incubators, hubs and offer office space to technologists to engage with the tech community.”
We believe that law firms could benefit from closer collaboration and engagement with the legal tech providers. The future law firm must have insights and overview of the legal tech market to always be able to offer a tech stack of best-in-class solutions. Many law firms have already understood this. Norwegian BAHR Leap is a brilliant example of a legal tech lab where lawyers can learn about the market while legal tech providers can receive valuable feedback to improve their products: a clear win-win.
Another example is the Legal Tech Hub Vienna; a quite unique concept where seven of the biggest law firms in Austria collaborate to educate themselves and test new products. They have involved a handful of legal tech providers, Contractbook included, for a 6 month accelerator program where they get inspiration while the legal tech entrepreneurs get valuable insights to Austrian legal market.
No 2. “Engage in events such as hackathons, demo-showings, conferences, after-work sessions, cafés and seminars.”
There are plenty of examples of law firms applying such an externalisation strategy. An example is the Danish law firm Plesner that hosts Plesners Legal Tech Forum or the Swedish law firm Synch that collaborates with the Legal Hackers movement.
No 3. “Create external legal market platforms for freelancers and legal aid platforms for students.
As explained in the original articles, the gig economy for lawyers will continue to grow and expand. Project management will be used more frequently in the larger cases while marketplaces for legal freelancers will take over many of the less complicated matters. In order to take shares of this market and attract a talented pool of legal freelancers, Pinsent Masons has come up with a brilliant solution. They have created their very own freelance platform Vario to support their traditional setup.
Law firms should also engage in free or affordable legal aids to support law students, show social responsibility and attract future clients. One example is the Justice Café in Georgia where those who cannot afford a lawyer can get legal advice and representation at low costs. That is a brilliant way to engage in the community and win some fans.
The Manifesto of the Fluid Law Firm is meant as an inspiration for innovation-minded law firms. Not as a fixed recipe for success. It means that any law firm should not adopt every fluidity strategy. They should be reminded that the client-centric age invites law firms to open up and that external innovation is equally important to internal innovation.
Download The Manifesto of the Fluid Law Firm to get more inspiration and the 7 other ways to make your law firm more fluid.
Niels Martin Brøchner, CEO, & Anders Spile, Executive client advisor, Contractbook.