Is Your Firm Future-Ready? (Hint: It’s all about whether you embrace technology or not.)

I do love a good survey. (Wait. Scratch that. I do NOT like all of the rando surveys we’re now receiving after every single retail/healthcare/automotive/restaurant/whatever service we enjoy these days. THOSE drive me crazy.) I’m talking about annual surveys that reveal trends year-over-year into topics that I care deeply about.

That’s why I recommend you read the third-annual 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer survey, which recently dropped and is loaded with important revelations about how the pandemic changed the legal industry… probably forever.

Namely: Lawyers, corporate legal departments and law firms are now more reliant on technology than ever before and just about no one thinks that is going to change.

Here are a few findings from the survey, which I strongly suggest you download and read. (Bolds are my emphasis.)

The ability to use technology to ensure performance became more important as the pandemic sent professionals out of the office and into their homes where they interacted remotely with clients, colleagues and the courts. The crisis made clear that technology solutions are essential to business resilience and client service.

As the industry continues to recover and a “new normal” emerges, technology will be a driving force. The question remains, who will be future ready?

Technology Leaders – those legal organizations identifying as fully leveraging technology today – continue to show a competitive edge. Technology Leaders:

  • Were more prepared to continue business during the pandemic: 46% of Technology Leaders reported they were very prepared to support clients remotely when the pandemic began, compared to 20% of Transitioning and 8% of Trailing organizations.
  • Were more likely to report profitability, with 47% of Technology Leading lawyers reporting profitability, compared to 28% of Transitioning and 13% of Trailing firms.
  • Were more likely to report their business increased, despite the pandemic.
  • Continue to invest more in technology, with 65% of Technology Leaders planning to increase their technology investment over the next three years.

Far more legal departments (91%) now ask or plan to ask the firms they are considering to describe the technology they use to be more productive and efficient; up 10 points from 2020.

More than one-third of law firms (35%) identify Lack of Technology Knowledge, Understanding or Skills as the top reason new Technology is resisted. This includes lack of IT staff/skills, understanding of what technology is available or training.

Key Takeaways for Law Firm Trainers

Attention law firm trainers: your role has never been more critical! I bet you felt that acutely in the early days of the pandemic when literally every single person in your firm suddenly had to do their work from home and needed your help. I heard from so many exhausted, frustrated trainers in early- to mid-2020 who said, “If people had gone to training before this happened, they would be so much more productive from home!”

Well, I suggest you use that experience to make the case for more training budget in 2021, 2022 and beyond. But now, you also have this survey to back you up.

This survey very clearly spells out the fact that law firms, corporate legal departments, attorneys and staff must embrace technological advancements. They must embrace the continuous change that technology demands.

They must commit to being continuous technology learners.

Sadly, the survey also reveals that many law firm leaders continue to resist rapid change. Survey respondents shared that the following factors are the biggest barriers to change and technology adoption in their legal organizations:

  • Organizational Issues (47%)
  • Lack of technology, knowledge, understanding or skills (35%)
  • Financial Issues (18%)

The organizational challenges that respondents cited included: 1) lack of an overall technology strategy, 2) a culture that fears change, 3) lack of change management processes, 4) resistance to changing workflows, and 5) leadership resistance to change.

But don’t lose heart, my fellow law firm trainers (and IT professionals). Instead, use this crossroads moment to double-down on what you know is the right path for your firm. Take this Wolters Kluwer survey to your HR managers, send it to the firm’s partners, discuss it with your IT team. And let them all know that you are prepared to support the firm’s future by creating a learning culture that helps people embrace technological change.

Finally, if they take you up on your bold vision and you need any support, call Savvy! We’ve been serving the legal industry for over 20 years and we know what that slow-to-change law firm culture can be like. We can help you create a tech-forward culture at your firm!

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