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Commercial Question

Law firms and their clients

updated on 12 October 2021

Question

What do clients want and need from their law firms? Lawyers? Business advisers? 

Answer

The answer is both.

It can be all too easy to see the law as something extraneous from a business’ day-to-day operations. The reality is far from the case. The law is woven through almost every element of a business; from its people strategy, to its marketing, to financial hygiene and far beyond. It’s therefore vital that a client’s law firm acts as a business partner, supporting them strategically, holistically and, particularly post-pandemic, with an emphasis on connectivity and integration.  

Expectations are also changing not only around what services law firms deliver, but also how, and importantly, who, those services are delivered by. Lawyers, in a profession steeped in tradition, are increasingly supported by experts in innovation, technology, data analysis, process design and project management, who in turn can help clients deliver on their business goals beyond ‘not breaking the law’.   

How can law firms help their clients ‘beyond law’? 

To satisfy their clients’ growing requirements, legal teams provide more than lawyers. Instead, they provide the following: 

Legal technology and innovation – legal teams must be tech-savvy and constantly innovating in what they do and how they do it. The pandemic has only served to bring this home for law firms as they have had to adopt new technology, listen to what clients are telling them they need to be connected and integrated, and adapt accordingly.  

Data analytics – law firms collect it and clients want to understand it. In the electronic world we live in, the use of data extraction tools and expert systems to structure data so it can be interpreted and analysed are providing hugely valuable insights. While a data platform might not provide an upfront answer to a client’s legal issue, it may get them further much quicker and with greater accuracy. And further, it may allow a legal team to spot a trend in a client’s business operations which, dealt with promptly, could save them money, or time, or both.   

Design thinking and creativity – clients expect their legal team to help provide solutions to their problems. By understanding the problems facing their client’s business, specialist advisers can help to identify those problems that could lead to legal issues and in turn, design solutions to avoid them. 

Process mapping and project management – clients need their legal transactions to be as efficient and streamlined as possible, but often don’t have the in-house expertise or experience to help facilitate this. An expert legal team can map out the transactional process from start to finish and then ensure both they and the client are using the right combination of people, process and technology at every stage.  

The future of legal services 

Innovation and progression in legal services is possible only through team effort, rather than being the job of a few technology enthusiasts. The good news for graduates is that law firms are responding to the industry’s changing needs through the introduction of ‘alternative traineeships’, with a focus on challenging how legal services are provided and providing personal career sustainability, all while creating real value for clients.  

Grace MacWilliam is an innovation engagement adviser, Victoria Sears is a senior innovation adviser and Jodie Hosmer is the legal process design Lead at Mills & Reeve.