'Just in time' is a must for a global legal business
Contrary to the common view point, efficiency should be the by-product of a law firm's drive to deliver the best possible service to clients, and not the other way round
Fundamental to this approach is 'just in time' information. The concept of component delivery being just in time is well adopted and proven in the manufacturing sector to improve production efficiency and reduce inventory costs. This concept relates readily to information delivery too.
To deliver the best possible client service in today's fast globalising and dynamic legal sector, lawyers need to work at the same productivity levels while on the move as they would in the office. With a global client mix and team structures, lawyers are spread across time zones with no common working hours.
Also, lawyers are increasingly working from wherever is most convenient for them - the office, home, on holiday, and while travelling. They no longer have the luxury to ask peers about
the status of matters and the firm's key business metrics at designated times, such as prior
to client reviews and board meetings. They must have information at their fingertips and at any point in time via
their preferred device.
Consequently, traditional ways of accessing information from on-premises systems are
no longer suitable. For example,
if a client asks for advice on the implications of the new personal information privacy regulation in a particular country, regardless
of the lawyer's physical base or location, the fee earner must be able to access information to clarify the issue. Fundamental information such who are the firm's experts in this area, is the firm doing similar work for other clients, and what is the current legal information available on
this regulation will be typical for the lawyer to need access to.
Similarly, a partner travelling to meet a client may need to know the firm's risk exposure to that organisation. Often, clients have multiple appearances in a firm's business and prior to taking on more work, a realistic assessment may be necessary, both internally by way of state of debt to the firm against the actual billing to date, and externally
by considering the state of the industry and market that client plays in.
Technology, including a combination of an enterprise resource planning system, devices, and connectivity options, can facilitate such an approach to business operation. The right type of IT is essential to enabling lawyers to access vast rafts of data from any device, in a format that works for the device of choice, and from any location
in the world.
Referring back to the example above, its relevant to see only the heads of terms of the personal information privacy regulation on a smartphone on the move - secure in the knowledge that
the entire and most current document is available to review on a PC later. Or the data on financial exposure may be better displayed in a pie chart for easily comprehensible information on the move. In a law firm scenario, the
'just in time' concept pertains to access to business-critical data
at the right time, anywhere, on any device, and securely to make lawyers their own self-sufficient, 'multi-functional' device. In essence, they become their
own researcher, credit controller, and risk assessor. This kind of capability is essential for lawyers to effectively work in a globalised business landscape.