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James Noble

Partner, Carey Olsen

Evolution of the digital dinosaur

Evolution of the digital dinosaur


Law firms marrying new ways of working with managing the expectations of those resistant to change see the most success in the new digital world, writes James Noble

If your firm isn’t interacting with the world around it as much as it should be, then there’s something you should know: it’s impossible to grow your practice in a vacuum.

It’s 28 years since Tim Berners-Lee opened a Pandora’s Box of opportunity with the birth of the internet. It’s now 2017, and while 96 per cent of law firms do have a website (according to Propero Partners’ 2017 ‘State of Digital Marketing in Professional Services’ report), 67 per cent aren’t mobile ready, and 65 per cent haven’t been updated in the last three years (LawWare, 2016).

If this isn’t telling enough, PwC UK’s Annual Law Firms’ Survey 2016 has also revealed that embracing the full capacity of technology in the legal industry is non-negotiable if firms want to stay competitive. The report further extrapolates that 79 per cent of law firms are concerned that the speed of technological change will stop them meeting their ambitions (despite the use of digital being set to increase significantly), which poses the question: what can be done to help firms move with the ever-shifting digital landscape and avoid falling behind?

Frontrunners in the race for greater wealth, power, and influence have the freedom and flexibility to adjust to the new type of legal market made possible by new technology. However, as is true for most firms, red tape and lengthy decision-making processes behind the curtain quickly curtail any enthusiasm and momentum for new ways of working, which means progress is stunted before it ever gets started.

To counteract this, the firms committed to achieving their growth goals by any means necessary are now exploring other avenues to keep pace with the flux of digital and technology. One option is to join the migration towards outsourcing, and use a results-driven consultancy that specialises in designing and implementing long-term growth plans.

These relationships are built on trust, and both sides understand where their responsibilities lie. The right consultancy (which is one step removed from the firm) can free those tasked with marketing duties from the hamster-wheel of unproductive tasks assigned to them by a board of decision makers. Instead, technologically advanced, self-managing processes are put in place to generate results long after activity has stopped.

Marketing and branding is now one of three top drivers of digital in 2016/17 (and likely into 2018) for law firms, says PwC, which has created an urgency for these types of consultancies to exist. At the base level, outsourcing simply means that firms can have their finger on the pulse of industry and technology without having to increase the cost of extra resources in-house.

Alternatively, if outsourcing isn’t an option, there are several simple steps firms can take to avoid becoming digital dinosaurs. For instance, if your website features a news or blog section, make sure your latest article isn’t dated 2013 as it will leave a lasting poor impression on prospective clients. Similarly, if your site includes an integrated social media feed, make sure it’s frequently updated with content that’s relevant to your audience.

The statistics noted in this article suggest that most firms would rather let their digital shop front gather dust and fall behind in the mobile-ready stakes than invest the effort needed to become a 24/7 traffic magnet. But fully functional doesn’t necessarily mean state of the art. Providing your website is up to date and aligns with Google’s best practices, you’re taking steps in the right direction to ensure you’re not left behind in the digital evolution.

At a time where digital and technology are in constant state of change, there’s a clear distinction between those who are embracing all it has to offer, and those who aren’t. The law firms marrying change and new ways of working with managing the expectations, aims, and objectives of the partners resistant to it are seeing the most success.

These firms are taking strides instead of steps – while minimising risk – by entrusting the process to experts who drive results instead of waiting for the next direction.

James Noble is a partner at Propero Partners