The cumulative effect of small improvements for law firms

First published as a foreword in the ILFM Legal Software Suppliers Guide 2021.

So much about change can seem scary or difficult. You only have to look at the last 18 months to see just how scary and difficult change can be. However, change can so often bring with it opportunities and how (or if) if we seize those opportunities will determine whether that change is for the better.

We just need to look at how the legal profession has managed and how the practical aspect of law has changed for so many in the profession. Some have gone from 100% office based to 100% home based. Many have done away with their old paper files in a move to working completely virtually. Across the country meetings and even hearings are no longer held in person but are being held online instead.

Change in the legal market

When a seismic change like a global pandemic occurs the small day-to-day, or month-to month, changes may not resonate as loudly, but you can be certain they are happening, and nowhere does change occur more rapidly than in software. Just in our relatively small legal IT market so much has happened over the last 12 months. Whether that be through mergers and acquisition of which the UK legal software market has seen considerable activity. Whether that be through new entrants with innovative software solutions hoping to make a splash. Whether that be overseas businesses bringing software tried and test abroad to our shores. Or whether that be software suppliers developing, innovating, and improving their current software product or suite of products. Change is occurring all the time.

Embrace technology

Change in the IT space is a constant. I believe more so than in any other industry. However, change cannot simply happen if you do not make it happen. It is true if you only ever use your smartphone for making and receiving calls and sending text messages you may not see any advantage the latest and greatest smartphone has to offer over your first mobile handset. It is also true to say that the change from mobile phone to smartphone has been dramatic.

When it comes to IT, change must be embraced for you to benefit from it. You can choose to ignore change but that will often be to your peril. Others won’t, they will embrace the technology, they will work with the new features, they will take training, they will become proficient, they will provide a better service to their clients, and ultimately, they will benefit.

Right now, you may say that the mere thought of change couldn’t be further from your mind, when so much of the profession is at capacity, in particular conveyancers.

The cumulative effect of small improvements

However, the cumulative effect of small changes can lead to greater gains. The most important thing is that you move forward. Automate your standard documents, stop printing and filing hard copies of everything when you hold a virtual copy, scan all incoming post, and save that on your virtual file, shred what you don’t need, share that same virtual file with your client and other third parties so everyone can be kept up to date. If you’re doing all this already look at automating your processes further with the introduction of workflows and business process automation. Going from individually drafted letters to full workflow automation may seem like a daunting task but taking the smaller steps I’ve described, one by one, could be all you need to do to completely change the way you work for the better.

When so much of UK industry expects the new normal to be flexible or hybrid working, when home working may become the norm and not the exception, a well provisioned, and equally as importantly, a properly used software product and infrastructure will be key to your success.

Don’t be left sending text messages when everyone else is using WhatsApp. You’ll miss out on the conversation. To quote John F. Kennedy:

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.”