Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Innovation in law firms

December 20th, 2012 by Altman Weil

What constitutes an “innovative” law firm?  Is innovation really important to clients?  In its 3rd annual US Innovative Lawyers report, the Financial Times recognizes 25 firms that have undertaken new initiatives to positively differentiate themselves among clients.

For example…

  • “Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton designed its own $2m in-house “mini MBA”, which will be mandatory for its first-year associates.”
  • “Davis Polk & Wardwell, has been pushing for its youngest lawyers to be more useful to clients – and more profitable for the firm – by choosing a specialist practice area much sooner than is traditionally the case.”
  • Paul Hastings is “overhauling its secondment programme to include more senior lawyers, including counsel and partners.”
  • A Holland & Knight practice group developed a fixed fee strategy “that simply measures output rather than time” thereby pleasing clients and saving the firm half a million dollars in administrative costs.

Read it at Financial Times

Law firm pricing directors

September 28th, 2012 by Altman Weil

More than 50 AmLaw 200 law firms have hired Pricing Directors in the last 18 months according to a new article in Corporate Counsel magazine.  This new ‘hot job’ is emerging as a way to maintain profitability in the face of increasing pricing pressures from clients.

“Given the increasingly competitive and tight economics of legal practice today, even in (especially in) the largest and most traditionally successful firms, the market has changed. Price can no longer be disconnected from cost, just as cost can’t be disconnected from value provided.

Enter the pricing director. These emerging leaders in firms are sometimes lawyers, but at this stage in the game, most of them bring experience and disciplines developed outside of the law—where pricing products and services is not only a norm, but also one of the most critical and revered aspects of business. “

What do they do?

“Pricing directors, at their core, are those within firms who help assess which categories the work falls into; which teams and workers are best suited to each matter and purpose or task; what experience, data, systems, or talent the firm brings to the matter that are distinguishing characteristics of the firm’s value; and how much each of these kinds of services provided to clients costs, profits, and advances the firm forward. These leaders are charged with transforming data and process to drive pricing that demonstrates the firm’s value to clients. Their growing role demonstrates a new path to profitability for firms suffering from a self-made downward spiral of discounted service. “

Read it at Corporate Counsel

Law firm as e-discovery vendor

September 26th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The Legal Intelligencer reports an interesting trend that we’ve been watching:

“Amid a flurry of law firms in recent years that have formed an e-discovery practice group, Drinker Biddle & Reath has taken the concept a step further by creating a subsidiary to handle the technical aspect of mining electronic data in litigation. The concept is one consultants said could spread to other law firms as they look to recapture revenue lost to legal process outsource companies.”

Altman Weil experts Jim Michalowicz and Dan DiLucchio are presenting a fascinating new webinar on E-Discovery Strategies for Law Firms on November 1.

Read more at The Legal Intelligencer

Innovative alternative offers value to clients

July 20th, 2012 by Altman Weil

A UK law firm, Dundas & Wilson, has developed a new “Legal Services Unit” staffed by paralegals to offer clients lower prices on routine work while still retaining their business. 

“The initiative, which Dundas is dubbing a “firm within a firm”, will see a nine-strong team of paralegals split across Dundas’s Scottish offices take on searches, filings, registrations, basic due diligence and document review and collation work.” according to Legal Week.

The firm’s Managing Partner explains:

“Clients are keen for their law firms to come up with innovative ways to resource their work and deliver new models that can improve efficiency.  The LSU allows us to provide clients with more flexible resource for volume tasks, but at the same time, retain the assurance of having work done by a leading law firm.”

Read it at Legal Week

Innovation adds value and creates client loyalty

March 19th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Last fall the Emerging Companies practice group at Perkins Coie in Seattle developed a free, web-based form-generator for start up companies “to put together the early-stage documents they need to create their companies without having to pay attorneys to do it for them.”  They liken it to TurboTax for entrepreneurs.

Perkins Coie partner Buddy Arnheim says that clients used to pay the firm for this work, but the firm would rather focus on counseling services which represent the greatest added value.

“The new free form-generation will help automate the simpler tasks that the law firm was already trying to give to its lower-paid employees or consultants to keep costs low for startups. Now, the entrepreneurs can do it themselves, then come to Perkins Coie when they really need assistance.”

Read it at Puget Sound Business Journal

An update on Legal Process Outsourcing

January 23rd, 2012 by Altman Weil

Legal tech expert and blogger Ron Friedmann has written an excellent piece outlining the latest in Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and how BigLaw is adopting some of its key elements in new ways.

“BigLaw prides itself on its artisanal approach.  Few large law firm lawyers would write, much less follow, a playbook or best practices guide.  In contrast, LPO providers stress a systematic approach and cost reduction.  LPO providers rely on industrial disciplines that include process improvement, metrics, service level agreements (SLA), formal governance plans, lower cost labor, detailed playbooks, defined accuracy rates, and frequent progress reports… 

We can now look back to the early buzz about LPO – moving legal work to India – and understand that it missed the main point.  Location matters less than implementing industrialized processes.  India is just one destination for lower cost labor and lower cost labor is just one element of the LPO OS.

LPO providers have grown quickly in the last few years but remain a small percent of the BigLaw market.  LPO impact, however, has been disproportionate to its revenues.  Specifically, we now see wide adoption of many LPO OS elements by BigLaw. ”

Read it at ABA Law Practice Today

Technology as competitive advantage

November 17th, 2011 by Altman Weil

Two items in the legal press this week highlight law firms’ search for improved efficiency, cost control and collaboration through enhanced technology.  Two firms - one traditional AmLaw100 firm and one out-of-the-box virtual firm – are working on customized technology solutions that caught our attention:

Sutherland Asbill has developed Legal Project Management software in a collaborative pilot project that included their attorneys, business development professionals, practice managers and technology group. 

The team designed a matter-level dashboard that “contains charts that track the status of spend vs. budget for the matter, links to the iManage folders for the matter, a Task Assignment tool, and a Project Schedule tool.  Users also have access to the ‘askSutherland’ knowledge management tool, our docket management system, and other resources.  The project team also can set up a ‘team discussion’ space as well as single repository for any reports required by the client.”

Read it at Law Practice Today

Clearspire, a new virtual law firm that has the benefit of starting from a blank slate without any legacy systems, has built a customized law practice and business management platform called Coral.  Blogger Ron Friedmann describes it:

“Coral is a complete desktop and office environment that encompasses not just document creation / editing and e-mail, but a range of other functions, including real-time communication / collaboration, project management, and financial analysis.

… the firm built Coral from the ground up to meet new client demands for better value, with features to serve clients, lawyers, and the firm’s business managers. Key design goals included ease of use for “non-techie lawyers”, collaboration within the firm and with clients, scalability, and the ability to break substantive legal work into separately priced and managed discrete activities (”chunks”).”

Read it at Prism Legal

Innovative lawyers 2011

November 7th, 2011 by Altman Weil

The Financial Times recently released a new report, US Innovative Lawyers 2011, and published a ranking of the highest scoring firms, The FTLaw 25.  They describe their efforts as “an alternative way to measure law firm success.”

“It breaks with the ­traditional method of looking at fees and profits as the measure of success. As the category rankings are based primarily on client reviews, the FT Law 25 shows firms that were consistently found to be creating transformative solutions for clients.”

and…

“For all the firms in the FT Law 25, culture is of the utmost importance to the promotion of innovative lawyering. However, this culture does not have to be homogenous.

The ranking’s top 10 contains three firms that originate from the west coast: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Latham & Watkins; and Paul Hastings. All three have cultures that are different from the east coast firms, but are strong innovators in their own right with a growing international footprint. Also notable are the Chicago firms of Seyfarth Shaw, Kirkland & Ellis and Mayer Brown, which bring a different but powerful style to their innovations.

What is common to all the firms in the FT Law 25 is their commitment, their ability to adapt and to work together in the best interests of business to unusual and important effect.”

The Financial Times has written a series of profiles of the top innovations - in both law practice and law firm management.

Read it at Financial Times [free registration required]