Will the future of law belong to large or small firms? It’s a debate that is ongoing.
ILANZ 2018 was another hugely energising and enjoyable event. Thank you to everyone involved in organising it!
The official theme of this year’s ILANZ was “No 8 wire”, as a nod to our in-house lawyers' ingenuity and ability to innovate with limited resources. Last year, I used this term in my blog to describe some of the cobbled-together solutions delegates were using – it was a term of endearment. This year, I'm a little less certain we should be celebrating this.
It was great to see our customer Housing New Zealand profiled in LawTalk 917 for their success in working with us on document automation.
You can read the article on the Law Society website here, and the full text is set out below.
If you would like to discuss how document automation could provide similar benefits for you, please get in touch!
We talk to a lot of organisations about document automation. Many of them have problems that document automation can help with. Some of them are literally drowning in paperwork, lacking sufficient experienced staff, and know they are exposed to undesirable levels of risk through inadvertent error or lost opportunities through delay. The people on the front-line need a solution now!
Although it is something that they want to start using because they know the benefits it will provide them in terms of greater speed and quality of document creation, with reduced costs and risk of error, many of them already have some type of system that already has, or could have as an extra module, some sort of document generation capability which they are not using. In a corporate context this could be a procurement system or an HR system, and in a law firm, it is often the firm’s practice management system.
Sensibly they want to look into that option further before they make a decision on how they will start to use document automation. The problem is that we see a lot of people go into that process, but few come out the other side. Months or years will pass without getting any of the benefits they know they need. How can this problem be avoided?
If you are considering these types of issues, the following questions and thoughts based on our observations might help you and your team move through evaluation more quickly and effectively and avoid it becoming a black hole that devours your initiative before you get going:
In my last blog, I discussed how suppliers to in-house lawyers must understand the needs of in-house lawyers, before being able to effectively help them. Over two days and three evenings at ILANZ 2017, I realised that this requirement to understand is ongoing. New Zealand in-house lawyers are an evolving bunch who continue to learn themselves. So what did I take away?
At the conclusion of New Zealand legal technology conference LawFest, one attendee said to me that a lot of the legal tech offerings seem to be targeted at private practice lawyers and there is a lack of understanding of the different needs of in-house lawyers. Does he have a point?
You may have seen me talk about using legaltech to achieve great outcomes. You may have nodded your head in agreement. After all, who wouldn’t agree that getting a great result is, well, great? But what does this actually mean?
There are a lot of legaltech options out there. If you’ve tried one piece of legaltech, and been left feeling like the guy on the right, you’re not alone. This happens all too often. With so many providers (sometimes appearing to offer the same solution), you have to find one that can solve problems you have, in the way that suits you, in the way they said they would. Don’t part with your money or your time, until you know this will be the case.
A lot of my recent blogs have suggested clients should look at how their lawyers work and ask questions, like what systems do they have? What training do they do to ensure they provide the best levels of service?
This week I want to look at the related topic of pricing. I say related topic, because the pricing options a law firm can offer will depend heavily on the systems they have. A firm that has not invested in good systems is unlikely to be able to offer transparent and certain pricing.
Perhaps reflecting this lack of investment in systems, many lawyers still use hourly rate billing and loose estimates of cost based on time that will be spent (e.g. $3,000 to $5,000...), which is inherently unsatisfactory for clients as it contains little incentive to be efficient and can often lead to nasty bill shocks (e.g. $7,000) at the end of the matter when the lawyer advises that it took longer than they thought it would.
To try and get good value, clients often focus on discounts to the hourly rate, which does not solve the problem if the number of hours is open ended. The firm could just throw 5 people onto a simple job, as in this example.
Pricing in this way can be a complete finger in the air, where not only would different lawyers within a firm be likely to charge different amounts for the same piece of work, but the same lawyer could charge different amounts on a different day. Isn't that bizarre?
Firms that can give greater clarity and certainty on pricing - while still giving good outcomes and not taking shortcuts - should be rewarded by clients. But, for that to happen, clients have to look beyond hourly rates and ask the right questions.
In these earlier posts Time to visit the legal sausage factory - Questions for clients to ask their lawyers in 2017, The legal sausage factory - will lawyers show clients how they make their sausages? and Technology in the legal sausage factory - what is it, and who does it benefit? we suggested that if clients want to see improvements in the value they get from their law firms, they need to be more assertive and find out how their law firms currently work. To do that, they will have to ask some harder questions than they have to date. A similar approach is also suggested by Jacob Herstek, vice president and senior legal counsel at HSBC Bank USA in this article To Cut E-Discovery Costs, Legal Departments Question Outside Counsel.
We have come up with 13 questions that lawyers could ask their law firms to work out if they are modern and efficient, or are a legal 'sausage factory'.
The first questions we suggested asking have been:
- Can you show us how you actually work?
- What technology have you already adopted for our benefit?
- What technology will you adopt for our benefit?
- How do you keep our information secure?
Next we suggest you focus on precedents. Do they even have any? Do they use them? Is your law firm making its sausages from a recipie or are they just sweeping together whatever they can find on the day to get something out the door?
In these earlier posts Time to visit the legal sausage factory - Questions for clients to ask their lawyers in 2017 and The legal sausage factory - will lawyers show clients how they make their sausages?, we suggested that if clients really want to see more value from their legal spend, they need to be more inquisitive and assertive and find out how their law firms currently work, so they can see what changes they require.
We've come up with 13 questions that clients can ask their lawyers to work out if they are modern and efficient firms working towards best practices, or if they are a 'legal sausage factory', churning out a product that looks ok but hoping you never see how it's actually made.
The first question we suggested asking is "Can you show us how you actually work?".
The next three questions focus on technology, because this is absolutely central to their ability to make major improvements. It's also the biggest threat to their continued existence because internationally and in New Zealand a substantial amount of legal technology is being developed, which will enhance those lawyers that adopt it and replace those that don't.
Our technology questions focus on what legal technology they are currently using, and what they plan to adopt (and in each case whether it is for the benefit of the client or the law firm), and how do they keep their clients' information secure?