For law firms, delivering the best possible client experience is usually the motive for implementing legal tech. But what many law firms are finding is that the benefits of innovation are also helping them recruit and retain talented people.
Competition for legal work is intense. Winning new clients may be a powerful reason why law firms initially invest in legal tech, but what they often find is with the right technology they also win over their lawyers too.
For this article we invited Gillian Lynch, Director of Knowledge for William Fry LLP in Dublin, to explain how they measure the value of their legal tech investments more broadly, seeing these investments both as a way to win legal talent as well as to win new clients.
An era of embracing change
The impact of Brexit, thriving financial services and technology markets and high deal volumes have together fuelled an influx of international law firms into the Irish market in recent years. William Fry, as one of Ireland’s largest commercial law firms, has seen the competitive landscape change as a result. With the competition for legal work growing, clients are scrutinising their law firms more intensely.
“I think clients want what clients have always wanted - pragmatic, actionable legal advice from people that they feel have judgement and an understanding of their industry,” Gillian says. “The difference now is that they want us to show them how we’re leveraging tech to deliver our work in a timely and cost-effective way.”
To adapt to these client pressures, law firms are adopting more digitally enhanced approaches. Fortunately, requesting lawyers to relinquish traditional work practices and embrace legal technology is no longer the huge ask it once was.
“One thing we definitely know after the last couple of years is nothing stays still nothing ever stays the same, so you have to be ready to evolve and develop,” says Gillian. “The pandemic has taught us we don't need to fear change. We've realised that we can change and it's no big deal. And while we might have been pushed into different ways of working a little bit faster than we might otherwise have done, I think there's generally an acceptance that change is good and we’re very happy to embrace it.”
Benefits that go beyond client satisfaction
This openness to change means law firms like William Fry are taking a more proactive approach to using technology to adapt to changing markets and changed work practices. One of the biggest challenges most law firms are tackling at the moment is around recruitment and retention of lawyers (particularly those 2-6 years PQE). In Ireland, in addition to the impact of ‘The Great Resignation’, there’s the added complication of the long-established custom for junior lawyers to seek experience overseas.
“A lot of people in Ireland, perhaps do a couple of years post qualification here and then head to the UK, Australia and Canada for international experience - that's always been the way,” Gillian says. During the pandemic, this opportunity was obviously stalled, but with travel open again, the exodus of junior lawyers returns. “We now have people who once again can go and get experience abroad and we're obviously seeing the impact of that in the market. For us, making the firm a place where people want to work is a huge part of our focus and drive at the moment.”
Technology is an important part of the work William Fry is doing to improve the work environment for lawyers. And this is an important way in which they’re measuring the value they get from legal technology.
“We’re looking for more than client benefits when we implement legal tech,” Gillian says. “Obviously, we're looking at the traditional metrics like time savings, risk mitigation, consistency, but we’re also putting our staff at the centre of what we’re doing. So, we're looking for the opportunity for greater work life balance for them. We're looking for the opportunity to give them access to better quality work.”
In times where addressing the challenges of lawyer recruitment and retention are as critical as winning clients, more law firms, like William Fry, are recognising the role of technology in creating a better place to work for lawyers.
“As well as people wanting flexible working arrangements, they also want access to good work, which means they want tech to help them doing the less enjoyable work,” Gillian explains. “Obviously nobody really wants to do too much repetitive work even though there’s an educational benefit to doing some of it. So, we want to reduce that work with the support of legal tech solutions like document automation, and then take the time that's freed up to do more work that has greater impact for the client.”
Summary: Everyone benefits – it’s a win-win
Technology is making it possible for law firms to improve the client experience by demonstrating greater efficiency and more competitive fee arrangements. But law firms are increasingly prioritising the wider non-client benefits of innovation too – from improving lawyer work-life balance and assisting with recruitment and retention, to unlocking capacity for lawyers to focus on more rewarding and enjoyable aspects of legal work.
“I think clients want what clients have always wanted - pragmatic, actionable legal advice from people that they feel have judgement and an understanding of their industry”
Director of Knowledge, William Fry
Have you seen any change in client demands that is driving the adoption of LegalTech?
How has the 'great resignation' affected your ability to delegate work?
“One thing we definitely know after the last couple of years is nothing stays still, nothing ever stays the same, so you have to be ready to evolve and develop,”
Director of Knowledge, William Fry
How do you address the challenge of passing the benefits of LegalTech to your clients?
How do the benefits of LegalTech help you internally?