Legal industry and BPM: The approach of the perfect storm

A round table discussion was organized by Thomson Reuters and ‘The Lawyer’ consisting of a panel chaired by William Robins, corporate partner and COO at Keystone Law. The event encompassed the discussion about the rising prominence of the use of technology in the legal sector, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Business Process Management (BPM). The entire panel was unanimous in their opinion of BPM in legal industry being the way forward. Law firms are already adapting to the change, incorporating new technology and regulations, to sustain themselves.

Law & BPM. Image source

Law & BPM. Image source

The origin of BPM

Gary Jackson, operations director at Irwin Mitchell delved into the beginnings of BPM. BPM originally began with the introduction of Six Sigma by Motorola and gained prominence by the striking implementation of Six Sigma at General Electric back in the 90s. BPM gathered further momentum with the proliferation of internet forcing companies to rethink about the techniques of cost-analysis and client relationship management. BPM has come a long way since then. BPM in legal industry is also gaining prominence.

BPM and Law

According to Adam Shutkever, who is chief operating officer at Riverview Law, the legal firms are now focusing on emulating the other businesses. This is primarily by giving importance to maintaining good client relationships and delivering the services sought.

Samantha Steer, FloSuite legal product manager at Thomson Reuters observed that the days are still early for BPM management in legal firms. In the top 200 legal firms listed by Legal Technology Insider, only 42 have implemented true BPM solutions.  But the number is definitely increasing with the firms focusing more on customers and bringing changes in-house.

Crawford Hawley-Groat, who is director of IT at Maclay Murray & Spens thinks that the firms have to identify inefficient areas and areas requiring improvement and even learn from other players in the industry. According to him, this should form the basis of implementing BPM in that particular firm.

The perfect storm

Jackson and Shutkever reiterated the significance of implementation of technology and automation in order to save time and money and improve efficiency as well. Abbey Ewan was critical about the mind-set of the legal industry which has not adopted change for years in spite of decreasing revenues and reducing profits. Shutkever attributed this reluctance for change to the law firms’ attachment to the policies of traditional law firms, which did not conform to ‘develop, adapt or else die’ idea.

However, Shutkever saw the approach of the perfect storm with rapid changes in terms of regulations, relationship with customers and new entrants into the legal industry.

Hawley-Groat blamed the current problems faced by the legal industry on everyone in the industry. He said that watching other firms adopt new technology and adapt to the situation will prove to be an incentive to other firms to change their functioning too.  Ewan said that the lawyers’ lukewarm approach to customer relationships proves to be a huge deterrent in development.

Hawley-Groat and Jackson stressed upon the need to change with the times and called for a development of the legal industry to cater to the coming generations too. Shutkever remarked that in twenty years the scenario will be completely different without the existence of a few or no traditional law firms. He predicts it to be the time when billing by the hour for the services delivered will soon become obsolete. .

Law firms have already started the shift towards trying to deliver maximum customer satisfaction. They have begun realizing that a streamlining of the internal processes is a necessity for them to survive and flourish.

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