A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Increasing the efficiency of individuals - the next priority for the legal industry

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

by Dr Marc K Peter, Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Pacific

The rise of the use of technology in the legal profession to achieve greater efficiencies and flexibility has been well documented.

Up until now, the focus has been on making law firms more efficient; streamlining work processes into a single system to provide a secure working environment and transparency of business performance, satisfying the needs of the whole practice.  

While operational processes have been the focus of most companies to-date, future technologies will concentrate on making individuals more productive, efficient and mobile, according to new research we recently completed with leading figures in the Australian legal industry.

Indeed, the results of the 2014 LexisNexis Workflow & Productivity Survey found that the most popular efficiency initiatives adopted by law firms were the use of technology, knowledge management and staff training.  In-house lawyers also relied heavily on technology followed by outsourcing to external lawyers and flexible work practices.  

What’s Working (and what’s not)? 

When asked which initiatives have been the most successful law firms rated the following in order of preference: 
  • Technology 
  • Knowledge management 
  • Skills training 
  • Flexible staff work practices. 

In-house lawyers ranked:
  • Flexible staff work practices
  • Knowledge management
  • Skills training

Least successful efficiency initiatives for law firms were:
  • Graduate intake reduction
  • Outsourcing to overseas law firms.
This finding suggests that initial enthusiasm for legal process outsourcing may not have fulfilled its promise.

Interestingly, corporate lawyers said their least successful initiatives were:
  • Outsourcing of work to both non-law firm providers and external legal counsel 
  • Alternative billing arrangements.
This result that suggests the culture of ‘24/7 availability’ facilitated by mobile technology is adding to workload pressures in a negative way for in-house counsel.  

Delivering efficiency a critical priority

All lawyers, whether in a law firm or in-house, are presently up against enormous cost pressures.  The survey tells us that for law firms, the pressure is coming mainly from clients pushing for a better deal as well as growing competition as legal work becomes more commoditised.  In-house lawyers on the other hand, cite an increased workload and the pressure to justify their value as the main drivers for their efficiency efforts.

At the recent LexisNexis workflow and productivity roundtable, participants made the point that the battle to make law firms more efficient had largely been won and the greater challenge now is to maximise the productivity of individuals.  More and more legal professionals are using mobile devices for legal research, matter and document management and which can make them available 24/7 in the event of a crisis or serious matter irrespective of their location. 

Both law firm managers and in-house lawyers are strongly unanimous that the need to deliver legal services more efficiently is a critical priority.  Both sectors have turned to technology as their number one solution in their efficiency drive making integration of these technologies an absolute priority with talent management a close second. 

Where do you think the best opportunities lie for your company and the legal industry? 

About our Guest Blogger 

Dr Marc K Peter is the Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Pacific.  Marc drives the product and commercial portfolio to add value to the legal and business markets and support the business, practice and rule of law. Marc joined LexisNexis in 2008 in the role of CMO Pacific and has worked with a wide range of international businesses including E*TRADE, eBay International and Swiss Post Bank PostFinance.  

LexisNexis is ALPMA's Platinum Summit Partner.  You can watch Dr Peter's opening presentation "Thriving and Prospering in a Changing Legal Landscape" at the 2014 ALPMA Summit for free from ALPMA's On-Demand Learning Centre.

Chrissie Lightfoot commented on 15-Oct-2014 08:15 PM
Couldn't agree more, Marc. What you speak of requires behaviour change of the individual lawyer to embrace technology to support them in their role and the focus to TRULY shift to the individual lawyer rather than 'the firm' per se.

Co-incidentally, I've just today posted the article "Legal Technology Wisdom Rules" yesterday, and it complements exactly what you write about. You can read it here:


Chrissie - The Entrepreneur Lawyer
Author of best-seller 'The Naked Lawyer'
Currently in a cave writing the sequel 'Tomorrow's Naked Lawyer' (provisional title)
Anonymous commented on 17-Oct-2014 08:07 AM
Good discussion starter thanks Marc...

Current and future technologies are only part of the answer..the technology available has been good for a long time and is now brilliant.

The challenge for management and for individual lawyers is to understand what people should be capable of at a minimum if operating efficiently and accountably, using the technology, and all other firm resources, efficiently.

The numbers are much higher than they ever were, and management and individuals need to get their heads around what the right KPI's are for each individual, and thus team, and firm...and drive work into the firm at the right levels to sustain achievement of the much higher goals.

At the bottom line, there's not a lot of point using great technology to be very efficient on 100% of the work you have, if the work you have is only 80% of what you need... and are perfectly capable of handling with very reasonable inputs and all the available resources...

In the big majority of firms that 80% will not even represent break-even after properly taking into account proper salaries of Principals...

The key point of productivity is to be productive for of much of a reasonable level of total input as possible...that's how real profit gets created...and truly good levels of profit properly handled feed into truly healthy and successful firms over the long haul.

Technology..a resounding "Yes"!

Genuine understanding of productivity, and genuine accountability? Two very big doses of "Yes"!

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