I was pleased to see an article about legal engineers recently. I was not pleased that the author thought that IT Department folks were the only ones capable of this type of job.
My latest thought having to do with the sad state of law firms is that law firm management does not understand its assets. This includes technology, everything from the latest innovations in Word to West KM and CaseMap. Law firm management is also behind the times in cataloging its people assets, such as Librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers. Finally, law firm management has created departments such as, eDiscovery and not utilizing them to the fullest.
There are only so many costs to cut before a firm has to become more more efficient. Being innovative is about understanding the assets and the firm and using them fully. Many management teams see the way through this difficult time as hiring new laterals and cutting costs further.
Firm managers must inventory what they have, people and technology. Then, they have to implement, and I mean fully implementing including training each person on various technologies the firms already own. Management has to understand that moving tasks better suited, for example, to librarians, and away from attorneys will shift work that is better done by librarians, thus lowering costs and improve capacity. If lawyers aren’t working with clients, their time is being wasted.Of course, this brings up the question of what lawyers enjoy doing. Not all of them enjoy working with clients, which means the partnership structure may need to change.
Clearly the operative word is change. law firms have lowered costs almost as much as they can. Morale among staffers is at an all time low. The only way to stay in business is to inventory assets, implement technology and shift tasks. I would also say that content management is key, so that information created can be found and reused.
While these strategies will take time, they will make the firm more efficient and lower costs.