Law Firms, Transform and Roll Out: A snapshot of the digital arms race for recruitment and client retention

October 10, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Law firms are accelerating their digital transformation through training programmes, incubators and client secondments to stay ahead of the game.

What does this mean?

Staying competitive in the current market means staying in touch with 21st century tech, as law firms compete to retain clients and attract potential employees by proving they know their AI from their blockchain.

It’s not just about touch-screen laptops, as law firms choose different ways to introduce and implement innovation. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer now offers associates an innovation secondment to clients and trainees can spend 6-months at the “Freshfields Hub” in Manchester focusing on client delivery. Since 2017, any Kennedys’ employee can pitch their solution for investment in its internal incubator, the “Ideas Lab”.

Why should law firms care?

Being digitally savvy and adapting to the changing tech industry has become vital in recruiting new talent and retaining clients. Indeed, the Financial Times began ranking law firms on “Business of Law” and “Legal Expertise” innovation in 2006, and has noticed a significant increase in law firms focusing on their digital credentials in the last 3 years.

An industry typically seen as conservative, the recent drive to improve processes and efficiency also reflects a shift in law firms’ culture and mindset. This change can be summarised as a shift away from perfectionism and top-down implementation towards individual enhancement. Increasingly, employees want to work where their ideas will be valued so that they can use their time more efficiently for their own benefit, improving their work/life balance, and the clients’ benefit, as the work is done more efficiently.

It may seem counterintuitive for law firms to be proposing and developing solutions to cut down on their billable hours, however this it is this drive for innovation that attracts clients and potential employees. By saving clients’ time and money, law firms can better align with client needs and position themselves as trusted advisors. For some firms, these non-legal tech-focused career paths, like Allen & Overy’s new non-legal training contract and Kennedys’ Ideas Lab, also offer a new route to career progression.

In summary, law firms risk losing talented employees and lucrative business if they fail to evolve with the times. Adopting innovative processes and training schemes looks to be the primary method for coping with the continuing advancements in technology. It seems that these new schemes will continue to be introduced and become the norm in the near future, thereby revolutionising the legal industry and the way employees are recruited. In 10 years time it is highly likely that the legal recruitment industry will operate very differently to how it works today.

Report written by Hannah-Mei Grisley

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