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Anticipate or die, warns futurist Rohit Talwar

Highlights big changes ahead for the legal industry

7 March 2013

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Future-proofed firms need to have their eyes trained on three horizons, said futurist Rohit Talwar.

Law firms need to take charge of their own destiny as economic and demographic challenges continue to bite.

This was the message from futurist Rohit Talwar, who was speaking at the MPF International Management Excellence Summit 2013 on 6 March.

He told delegates that firms should develop short, medium and long-term strategic plans to anticipate and prepare for the changes ahead.

Talwar warned that the economic challenges facing law firms and their clients are far from over.

“There could be ten to 20 years of economic correction to come,” he said, adding that firms “need to focus on game-changing innovation, because if we don’t create the seeds of our own destruction, someone else will”.

“The rich economies have a debt that is more than 100 per cent of GDP. The derivatives market is US$700trn in debt. That’s ten times the size of the global economy. No one thought there would need to be an exit plan from the eurozone. G20 meetings are presently ineffective as no one knows how to deal with the financial situation,” he said.

Inter-generational issues

Talwar also warned of further generational shifts in the workplace. He noted that firms are already grappling with Gen-Y’s different approach to work, which includes an unwillingness to progress slowly through the ranks.

He suggested that these problems could be amplified in future with improvements in healthcare creating significant increases in life expectancy.

“If you’re currently under 50 years old, there is a 90 per cent chance that you will be living to 100 years,” he said.

“There could be five to six generations working together in workplace in future and that will be a real challenge for employers.”

Preparing for changes ahead

Talwar suggested some steps for law firms to prepare for these changes.

“Firms should stop reacting and appoint leaders and management teams that are comfortable with change, as this will likely be the only constant over the next few years,” he said.

“Firms that fear change or appoint managers in place of leaders will continue to struggle,” he added.

“Once appointed, leaders and management teams need to focus on three horizons at the same time: operational excellence for the next year; a drive for growth during the next three years; and a long term strategy for the next five to seven years.”

He noted that operational excellence should involve focusing on processes, communication, information systems, governance and HR infrastructures.

A drive for growth would involve experimenting, tracking and embracing change, as well as adopting different business models to keep up with the constantly-changing marketplace, said Talwar.

“Reconsider how you run management meetings, perhaps focusing on the longer term first and day-to-day client issues last. Be ready to deliver practice areas and service lines that might not come to market for at least a year,” he recommended.

Talwar also suggested that law firms should establish dedicated units to focus on long-term strategy so that their leaders can anticipate and plan for likely future trends.

“Technology, financial services and consultancy tend to outperform other sectors. It is no coincidence that organisations in these sectors often have a dedicated arm of the business that is looking out for what’s next,” he concluded.

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