Standing at the crossroads of legal innovation

The law firm business model of the past is under attack. Slowly, private legal is responding with things like developing knowledge management systems, establishing jobs for data analysts who can establish pricing of services and beginning to look at ways to outline workflows and processes. Unfortunately, corporate clients are impatient and are beginning to push harder for improved efficiency and increased speed of service delivery.

When you arrive at a crossroads, you have the following choices: 1) Stand still and don’t move. 2) Turn left; turn right; go backward. 3) Forge ahead!

The legal industry is moving quickly toward a crossroads. The law firm business model of the past is under attack. Slowly, private legal is responding with things like developing knowledge management systems, establishing jobs for data analysts who can establish pricing of services and beginning to look at ways to outline workflows and processes. Unfortunately, corporate clients are impatient and are beginning to push harder for improved efficiency and increased speed of service delivery. Clients believe efficiency should result in lowered cost of production for firms and thus lower cost of services to them. How do law firms respond to these increasing expectations? Will we Forge Ahead to remake our industry? Will we innovate?

Why Do We Need Innovation?

Other service providers, including Big 4 accounting firms, are eating away at the market. In early 2017, the Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession reported that the global market for alternative legal service providers is currently at $8.4B annually, and growing.

Our clients’ executives, many of whom have worked in law firms previously, know what we do and how we do it. However, many of our clients (people in corporate business positions, for example, who are not lawyers) do not have the same personality traits as do lawyers. They expect efficiency from their own employees in order to maximize profits and returns to investors. Why, then, would they not expect that of their legal service providers? Further, corporations are rewarding their legal departments and business people based upon how well they control spend and reduce budgets.

Can Law Firms Innovate?

What traits or attitudes have to change or be overcome to create a culture of innovation? The answers provided to Altman Weil in their 2017 Law Firms in Transition survey indicate that law firms have not yet created an attitude of willingness to change their service delivery model. See http://bit.ly/2gNQEJr. Of the 386 firms participating in the survey, 62% responded that law firms are “low” in seriousness toward changing the service delivery model. Unfortunately, 85% of corporate Chief Legal Officers Altman surveyed in October 2016 categorized their firms’ interests in changing as “low.” The law firm survey further reflects that since 2015, firms reported that the largest impediment to change, partner resistance, has increased by more than 21%, with the response for 2017 of 65% of firms citing this resistance as the leading impediment to change. According to the Transition survey, larger firms (more than 250 attorneys) are much more likely to be experimenting with innovative ideas and methods. Fewer than 50% of firms with less than 250 attorneys are experimenting with innovation.

Lawyers struggle to identify how they might practice differently. Could it be that lawyers’ analytical thinking hinders them from pursuing concepts they consider risky in any way, concepts not fully vetted by 10 other larger firms that have validated them, or just concepts that do not impact their personal practice? Many lawyers are unwilling to invest the time and money to devote resources (i.e., people, primarily) to work on business-changing strategies for fear of failure, loss of take-home pay and loss of autonomy. Law firm culture resonates with the idea that planning takes too much time and costs billable hours.

Many law firms lack a strategic focus, particularly one of innovation. Some law firms have a difficult time appreciating all of the assets within their walls. Law firm culture can be more oriented around individuals as opposed to products and services created by its teams. Further, in many firms, there is a cultivated lack of awareness of the challenges of today’s legal market. Clearly, innovative thinking (and implementation of those thoughts) is hard, hard work. It is costly, risky and time-consuming. But will ignoring innovative thinking or denying it ultimately be more costly?

Lawyers are typically proactive as opposed to reactive. Without research and development investment to identify innovation, many firms have nothing to which to react. Few firms have conversations around innovation, process improvement and improving efficiency. How large are law firm budgets for research and development? What corporation could survive very long without allocating at least 2% to 3% of revenues to these efforts?

Another trait that impedes innovation is low resilience. What about the impact of high skepticism (“that will not/cannot work, it’s not needed, my clients are not demanding it”)? The survey shows that only 57% of the firms that responded have proactively engaged in conversations with their clients about matter management efficiency.

Do law firm compensation systems measure or reward improving efficiency, let alone developing innovation? While 48% of law firms in the survey say they have made significant changes to improve their efficiency in the delivery of legal services, only 39% say they have made significant changes in their approaches to pricing these services.

Law firms do not use their data well; they don’t know where to find it or how to easily access or collect it. Unfortunately, data is scattered among accounting, payroll, client relationship management, document management and other systems. Piecing it together is very difficult. Firms also do not use industry data very well. Firms are challenged to value their work, to understand profitability metrics and to adjust the metrics driving profits. Profitability holds us back from innovating. Only 58% of firms surveyed have developed data to understand their underlying costs of legal services. This is a huge impediment to being able to effectuate improved pricing. Of that 58%, only 28% believe the use of this data has led to significant improvement in performance. It seems that law firms are not proactive in providing value-based pricing and only do so when clients request it or the threats from competition necessitate it. Oddly, those firms report that value-based pricing projects are as profitable, if not more profitable, than hourly-priced projects.

Where to Go and What to Do

    1. Imperative 1: Law firms should have multidisciplinary teams (attorneys and non-attorneys) meet with clients’ multidisciplinary teams (attorneys and non-attorneys) to talk about solutions clients need. Devising something innovative requires the voice of the client driving the work. Create diverse teams; low diversity, inherent in most law firms, leads to a lack of diversity of thought.
    2. Collect regular, written feedback from clients (ideally at the conclusion of each matter). Consider capturing three simple questions provided to clients in their preferred format (email, online survey, written document, etc.): what worked well; what didn’t work well; how can we improve our service to you in the future?
    3. Create a source of innovation at your firm, ideally, a team of people who are problem solvers, are open minded, who can think like clients (empathetic). Find people who have strengths of ideation and strategic thinking. Use Tom Rath’s “Strengths Finder 2.0″ (2007, Gallup Press) to help identify these strengths in individuals. During meetings, get input flowing by using blank 3 x 5 cards initially to capture suggestions (claim it later if they want … this is not about attribution); vary the locations of the team meetings (outside, in the park, at a parking garage, at a client’s office, etc.). The group has to see things differently or from a different perspective in order to think differently. Recruit people who are divergent thinkers, who will work hard and have a passion for the effort, who are good leaders (not managers), who have respect for the ideas of others, who will fail and get back up to run another race (especially in the face of unending criticism) and who have natural curiosity.
    4. If the billable hour of today is more important to a person than his or her investment in their and the firm’s future, you have the wrong person for this role. Pay this committee a significant amount of money when ideas are generated and another amount once ideas become innovation (i.e., they have been executed). Allocate a portion of profits generated by the innovation on an ongoing basis to these committee members.

How to Achieve Innovation

  • SHARE! Great ideas and innovation can only occur in a culture that promotes creative thinking, challenging the status quo, celebrating failures, talking about problems and challenges. Bring representatives from all practice groups, industry teams, administrative departments, etc. together to generate conversations about efficiency and innovation. Oddly, you may quickly find that a group has a solution that can be used by another.
  • Follow Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC; see http://bit.ly/2tm7h4Q) and other law department operational groups. Chapters of these groups are springing up across the country as well as internationally. CLOC’s vision is one of a seamless legal ecosystem that delivers corporate legal support to small, medium and large businesses with peak efficiency. Law firms can learn a great deal from collaborating with these groups and attending their conferences.
  • Blockchain, a digital ledger in which transaction data is digitally recorded, cryptographically encrypted and shared on a trusted computer network, will bring technology to the practice of law as well as the business of law in a way unfathomable today. If you have not spent any time learning about this new technology, do not let another day pass without doing so. This technology will likely impact the business of just about every client a law firm has as well as its own. The impact of blockchain on business will likely exceed the Internet revolution.
  • Eighty-five percent of law firms surveyed believe that using technology to replace human resources is a permanent trend, yet it seems that few, if any, are focused on creating, implementing or exploring that technology. Get up to speed on artificial or augmented intelligence (AI). Examples are springing up in many places already. According to Brian Kuhn, co-founder and leader of IBM Watson Legal, the Watson-based product Outside Counsel Insights provides a view into the billing data provided to large corporate legal departments by their law firms that have the departments paying attention. See http://bit.ly/2tmGu8n.
  • Forge Ahead! Innovating is likely one of the most difficult things your law firm will ever try to do, but the alternatives are worse.

 

***** Teresa J. Walker is Chief Operating Officer at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Nashville, TN, and a past president of the Association for Legal Administrators She can be reached at Teresa.walker@wallerlaw.com.
lawjournalnewsletters.com

Aug-17
Reprinted with permission from the August 2017 issue of Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report. © 2017 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Best Practices – New Competencies for Legal Administrators

Law firm business requirements are changing faster than ever, and professionals supporting the business are experiencing firsthand an evolution in their job descriptions. New competencies and a strong grasp on legal project management principles are needed for the future of legal administrators.

COMPETENCIES ACROSS THE BOARD

In the Association of Legal Administrators’ most recent knowledge, skills and abilities analysis, nine new competencies were added. Past studies have averaged two to three competency additions; this reflects how quickly the pace of change has increased. Legal administration professionals should have knowledge of these emerging competencies:

FINANCIAL INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS

  • Alternative fee arrangements (e.g., bonus-based, flat fee, taskbased,
    volume discounts)
  • Client matter budgeting as it relates to electronic billing and/
    or allocation of firm time and resources

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT AND COMPENSATION

  • Substance abuse issues in the workplace (e.g., intervention
    techniques, assessment and treatment resources)

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

  • Client relationship management (CRM) software
  • Outsourcing resources and related benefits (e.g., office
    services, IT, payroll, records)

LEGAL INDUSTRY

  • Firm dissolution procedures (e.g., partner liability, retirement
    plans, insurance, outplacement)


TECHNOLOGY

  • Mobile communication devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets)
    and their uses

OPERATIONS

  • How to implement and maintain wellness programs
  • Meeting facilitation protocol and procedures (e.g., Robert’s
    Rules of Order)


INCORPORATING LPM PRINCIPLES

Along with the new competencies identified, legal administrators are realizing legal project management (LPM) principles can be used at the outset of each matter to analyze strategy and the client’s desired results. In using LPM to deliver cost certainty to clients, the legal project manager uses the client’s desired outcomes to develop a plan of action and determine the most efficient ways to deliver results. LPM draws on resources and expertise found throughout the firm: management, practice groups, accounting and finance, technology, marketing and business development, professional development and knowledge management. Understanding how all those areas fit together and can collaborate is essential to the success of LPM. Several of the legal administrator competencies previously listed are directly related to the skills needed to incorporate LPM into a firm’s practices.

ARISE ANEW

With the flurry of new and changing roles, it will be important for legal administrators and leadership to widen their competencies to include those identified by ALA’s recent survey. Those who can grow their skills and incorporate LPM can look forward to taking on expanded leadership roles with a strategic focus.

TAKING LPM FOR A TEST DRIVE

Let’s say you have a litigation case involving 15 co-defendants.

How can LPM help?

Initial Discovery: The LPM review determines that five key co-defendants bear 80 percent of the liability in the matter. Instead of deposing all 15 co-defendants at the outset (which involves travel, attorney time, court reporter time and expenses for each), the firm decides to depose only the five major co-defendants, cutting costs for the client and allowing client and attorney to reassess their strategy.

Deposition Preparation: Rather than the lead partner on
the matter drafting questions for the deposition, that task is turned over to a newer associate. The associate assigns a paralegal to review and order the records needed to assess liability, with further review by an expert in the client’s field. Assigning tasks to less expensive personnel who are still able to provide the appropriate level of client service results in greater efficiency and cost control, and contributes to meeting the client’s requirements.

Budget: The legal project manager and the attorney work with the director of pricing or pricing specialist, two more evolving roles in a firm. This person thoroughly understands the cost structures of each of the individuals working on the matter and can access historical data to determine the amount of time needed to carry out the various tasks. The more often LPM is used to plan and structure client work, the easier it becomes to make it standard practice in the firm. Checklists and templates developed for one matter can easily be adapted for others; firmwide best practices evolve over time and contribute to profitability. When it becomes an integral part of running the law firm as a business, legal project management adds value and contributes to the bottom line.

 

PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENTS



Aderant announced the latest release of Aderant Total Office (formerly Client Profiles), Aderant’s case management system. The Total Office 9.1 service pack 6 release provides law firms with new and enhanced features, including a simplified desktop documents display, additional redaction settings for maintaining client privacy, heightened data security for bank account information and configuration support for SQL Server 2014. www.aderant.com

Bellefield Systems, LLC announced a formal Engagement Program. The Engagement Program, the first of its kind in the legal industry, is structured to maximize engagement among all timekeepers in the firm and instill better timekeeping practices in order to increase profitability for the firm. www.bellefield.com

DocsCorp announced the release of cleanDocs Mobile, a complement to its next generation metadata management software – cleanDocs Desktop, which was released earlier in the year. cleanDocs is built on a series of new technologies pioneered by DocsCorp that have enabled a new approach to protecting organizations from unintentional information leaks – unified metadata management. www.docscorp.com

Handshake Software, Inc. announced Handshake Expertise Locator, an add-on application to the popular SP Bridge enterprise search solution. Expertise Locator helps law firms running SharePoint identify
expertise by providing rankings based on documents, biographies, contacts, clients, matters, time entries and other content sources. www.handshakesoftware.com
HotDocs launched an innovative new e-commerce platform, HotDocs Market. HotDocs Market provides attorneys with libraries of professionally crafted, customizable legal documents and forms from multiple legal publishers and Bar Associations, all created and delivered using HotDocs software. www.hotdocs.com

Liquid Litigation Management, Inc. has launched a new iPad Timelines app. The app is fully integrated with the LLM, Inc.’s Liquid Lit Manager. For those who are not currently using the powerful webbased tool, a standalone app is also available. www.liquidlitigation.com

NetDocuments announced the acquisition of Decisiv Email from Recommind, an information intelligence company focused on advanced analytics for discovery and investigations. This acquisition includes Decisiv Email’s development team as well as the technology. www.netdocuments.com

Nexidia announced significant enhancements to its legal discovery application, Nexidia Search. Nexidia Search will incorporate the company’s Neural Phonetic Speech Analytics to provide improved workflow and discovery tools for the review of audio evidence. www.nexidia.com/legal

nQueue announced the launch of iA Print Anywhere, which reduces cost and improves security by disassociating the sending of a print job from the releasing of it at the device. iA Print Anywhere is available as an optional component of iA Print Manager. www.nqueue.com

Rocket Matter announced Marketplace, an online store for additional services. The Rocket Matter Marketplace will initially feature Internet Marketing Services (IMS), including website, logo and social media design work, as well as the company’s highly regarded educational content. www.rocketmatter.com

About the Author

Teresa Walker is the President-Elect of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) and Chief Operating Officer at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP. She serves on ALA’s Large Firm Administrators Steering Committee and is a Trustee of The Foundation of ALA. Teresa is also a Lifetime and Founding Member of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of ALA. In October 2014, she was inducted into the College of Law Practice Management at its 2014 Futures Conference. Contact her at teresa.walker@wallerlaw.com.

Legal Matter Planning = Legal Project Management

Leading the Business of Law - ALA Legal Management - Nov Dec 2015

Your senior partner’s cellphone rings; the caller ID displays the phone number of the firm’s largest corporate client. The general counsel has a sticky matter involving many parties.

She needs work to begin immediately, as the transaction needs to close within a month’s time. Millions of dollars are at stake, and delays will be costly and bad for the general counsel’s reputation. She wants a budget for the legal services pronto and a flat-fee arrangement. Having closed a number of these types of transactions, the general counsel has a very good idea of what prior costs have been. Closing this transaction on time and below budget will mean that the general counsel and her legal department will enjoy very nice bonuses; the contrary will not.

Your partner walks into your office. She needs historical data on these types of transactions, both what the firm has charged for them as well as what they have cost the firm. She needs lots of timekeepers to start billing on this matter immediately. She needs people to handle due diligence. She needs 1,000 contracts reviewed and compared within the month — research conducted, documents drafted and governmental records obtained from all 50 states.

LEGAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT TO THE RESCUE

Can you convince the partner that the first steps are to begin planning … not billing?

Would you know the right questions to ask to help organize the work that needs to be done, to collect the needed information from the client as to their desired outcomes? Can you work with your partner to help her break down the work into major phases and then to outline the tasks that need to be completed for each phase? And remind her that a budget has to be prepared for the client and incorporated into your engagement letter, along with the scoping of the project?

“Jump to planning … not billing!”

Since the client hired the firm for its expertise in handling these types of transactions, suggesting that the firm does not have enough information from which to develop a detailed budget and to determine a flat fee for the work may suggest there isn’t as much expertise at the firm as needed. But you know to emphasize to your partner how important communications with the general counsel will be as your timekeepers progress through the various phases of completing the legal services. You know that the firm’s client is a key stakeholder in the transaction. However, can you help your partner identify the other stakeholders?

Of course, you will want to help your partner identify all of the possible risks or impediments to the transaction in order to properly plan for and communicate about them. Should any of the phases, such as due diligence, go to legal process outsourcing? Does the firm have adequate timekeepers (including staff attorneys, counsel, paralegals and other specialists) and legal assistants to produce the work needed within the required timeline? Who will make assignments and manage the team? Can initial versions of all the various documents needed for the transaction be generated from your knowledge management system?

YES YOU CAN

Phew. Are you exhausted yet? Using the various elements of legal project management can help your partner and the firm accomplish the client’s goal in the most efficient and timely manner. An organized, scheduled and monitored process can help everyone involved sleep easier at night. You can — and should — know how to help your partner work through this process.

Not comfortable that you can? Be in Los Angeles at our 2016 Annual Conference & Expo on Monday, May 23, for this year’s Advanced Profitability Track: A Deep Dive into Legal Pricing, Projects and Processes. This educational series will help you understand many of the aspects of legal project management and start you on your way to being able to assist your partners with situations like this and many more.

 

TERESA J. WALKER
2015-2016 ALA President
Chief Operating Officer
Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP
Copyright © 2018 Association of Legal
Administrators. All Rights Reserved.

Leading the Business of Law

Leading the Business of Law - ALA Legal Management - Nov Dec 2015

Having been involved in attempting to manage a group of attorneys — whether in a private law firm, corporate legal department, governmental agency or otherwise — you know that managing the operational side of the business can be challenging at times … actually, several times daily.,

However, over the last several years, the challenges have taken on a whole new degree of magnitude. We worry about cybersecurity threats and complex regulations, such as the Affordable Care Act. We worry whether to be in the cloud or not. We worry how to make the organization more profitable.

As we worry about what seems like an endless list of operational demands for our time and attention, we as law firm leaders and managers have the opportunity to grasp that seat at the organization’s governance table — be it an executive committee, board of directors, managing shareholders, etc. — by helping bring change to the practice of law.

We can help lawyers understand the need to serve clients differently. We are already very influential in our firms, companies and other organizations. We already have knowledge about the operations of the organization that few, if any, others have. We know the data or know where to find it. We know the personalities. We know who is technologically skilled and challenged. Let’s turn all that knowledge to helping lead the changes that our clients are demanding.

If you need evidence of the changes occurring in the industry, whether driven by our clients or our competitors, just take a few minutes to look at the website for NextLawLabs or watch this video. Both give compelling evidence.

We have to think differently. ALA needs to appeal to a broad mix of professionals serving the legal industry.

LEADING THE CHARGE

How does the Association of Legal Administrators equip itself to be able to educate its members on all of these changes? We have to think differently. ALA needs to appeal to a broad mix of professionals serving the legal industry.

We have to become the experts in legal project management, value-based billing arrangements, maximizing organizational profitability while minimizing clients’ costs, process improvement, innovation, matter budgeting, early case assessment, crowdfunding litigation — the list goes on.

The number of positions in law firms and legal departments dealing with these sorts of changes is growing each day. We need a wider range of knowledge and resources to help drive the industry and our organization (which has for so many years served the legal industry well). We should not move at glacial speed.

These examples are why the ALA Board of Directors has proposed to the chapters that the organization undergo a rebrand. Numerous boards, serving back to at least 2000, have tackled the difficult task of researching, evaluating, analyzing and agonizing over this issue, with 87 percent of our members supporting a name change at the time of our last rebranding effort. And these efforts were before all of these changes that have targeted our industry and our
members began.

As changes to our industry are accelerating, your Board feels that the time is now. We have to lead; we have to stay relevant; we have to be more dynamic and innovative. We have to make a difference in this industry. We owe this to our law firms and to our clients. We owe this to our members. We have to appeal to young professionals, too, as 77 percent of our current membership is age 47 or older, with 40 percent older than 57. We are facing the need to see almost 4,000 new members brought into the organization within the next five or so years in order to maintain our existing size. Daunting thought.

So, we face a huge challenge as an organization in much the same way we face huge challenges within our industry. I think few these days will argue that we have to operate our organizations as businesses and that we owe a duty to our owners and our clients to be as efficient and as effective as possible. Being the leader in the business of law requires change. Equipping you as a member to help make those changes and to claim a seat at the table is the business of our organization. Claiming that seat is up to you!

For the latest news on the rebrand, visit

www.alanet.org/rebrand.

Email
LinkedIn

TERESA J. WALKER
2015-2016 ALA President
Chief Operating Officer
Waller Lansden Dortch &
Davis, LLP
Copyright © 2018 Association of Legal Administrators. All Rights Reserved.

Moving Forward…Strategically

Leading the Business of Law - ALA Legal Management - Nov Dec 2015

Most businesses, whether big or small, aspire to grow. As we all know, if we’re not growing, we’re standing still, losing momentum, losing competitive advantage — losing market share.

If we’re not growing, we’re becoming less and less relevant
to our targeted markets, whether those targets are small to
mid-sized businesses or Fortune 500 companies with global
operations.

Growth can be really hard, especially in terms of talent.
Recruiting skilled attorneys with expertise and passion for
the practice of law in a particular niche in today’s global
employment arena is a major challenge. Recruiting
graduating law school students is a different challenge, in
that many clients are unwilling to hire first- and second-year
associates, claiming that they are not equipped in the early
stages of their careers to add value to the legal services
product. (The law schools need to fix this dilemma, quickly.)

Growing revenue for your entity is an even bigger challenge.
As legal management professionals, we know that saying
focused on creating and maintaining a highly productive,
low-cost operational environment is important. However, the
truth is that more than 80 percent of the costs of running a
law firm or other legal service unit is the talent that walks in
and out of our doors every day.

You can and should be a leader in the planning work for your organization.

Controlling indirect costs, while important for a healthy firm,
lacks the return on investment you want for the highest and
best uses of the energy of the firm, your practice groups or
departments, your managing partner or chairman, and
frankly, for you.

While much more difficult than all the cost-cutting that many
of us focus on naturally, investing your time and energy in
helping your organization grow its revenue will have a much
more substantial impact on the long-term health of your
shop. But what can you do to add value in this effort when
you do not practice law? The answer is not as difficult as you
think.

Make plans — strategic plans!

Just like our clients want our first move to be to jump to
planning instead of billing, our focus for our businesses
should be strategically planning for the years ahead.

MAPPING YOUR ROAD TRIP
As a concept, strategic planning can seem intimidating. It can
help to think about it like planning a road trip. If you want
to take a road trip from Nashville, you have to first know
where you want to end up. Then, it’s a good idea to map to
that location.

You cannot get where you’re going if you don’t know your
destination and don’t have a map to the finish line. Once you
have the route planned, you can determine more easily the
opportunities and threats ahead.

Now apply this to your business. Start by assessing your
organization’s strengths and weaknesses. This should
primarily be strengths and weaknesses as your clients
perceive them. They are paying for them, so they set the
value of them.

If your clients don’t know about your strengths, you have
immediately identified a weakness. You’re not valued by
your clients for the things your firm or department values in
its self-assessment. You are not who you think you are!
The next step in the process is identifying the strengths and
weaknesses as your targeted clients and your competitors
perceive them. Getting harder, right? While the hardest step
of the planning process, I find that the strengths and
weaknesses assessment is the most meaningful, as it can
focus you quickly on knowing where you want to go.

Get more specific by adding your whys and hows (strategies
and tactics). Before you know it, you have a clear roadmap to
guide the focus of the firm, which impacts everything from
which clients you want to represent to your ability to
generate revenues for those services. Planning, targeting,
focusing, specializing — clearly, today’s law firms and legal
services providers have to approach the business of law in a
much different way.

You can and should be a leader in the planning work for
your organization. You have the tools, knowledge, resources
and networks you need. So do it!

TERESA J. WALKER
2015-2016 ALA President
Chief Operating Officer
Waller Lansden Dortch &
Davis, LLP
Copyright © 2018 Association of Legal Administrators. All Rights Reserved.

You’re Well-Positioned to Advance Your Firm — and the Profession

How many times have you sat in your office and wondered what you can do in your role to bring the greatest value to your law firm?

If you aren’t doing this almost daily, it’s time to turn your attention to the changes going on in the legal industry and to focus on how you are especially equipped to bring new ideas to your firm.

The changes facing our industry are already ginormous and growing daily. However, I think there has never been a more important time during which those leading law firms have to be people who can think … differently.

This is where those of you in chief business and operational positions can really excel.

I’ve spent a great deal of time learning from Dr. Larry Richard about the key personality traits that lawyers possess that are significantly different from the average population. These things come to my mind quickly when I start thinking about how we as an industry are equipped to face the changes our clients are so anxious to instill in our firms and organizations.

When it comes down to it, you’re really a guru at so many aspects of the functioning of your organization.

High urgency, high autonomy and risk aversion — to name a few — make it very difficult for anyone to be highly motivated to incorporate change into everyday routines. Change scares us; we love knowing what’s ahead. It allows us to stay in our comfort zones. It’s human nature. But it leads to complacency, which is where we, as an industry, find ourselves.

Whatever your title may be within your firm or organization, you are equipped a bit differently than most of those you serve. You are resilient — otherwise you would not have been in this profession very long. You are adaptable and flexible; you navigate all the different landmines that come your way. And you’re resourceful; you can make things happen quickly, smoothly and, most of the time, effortlessly. You know all the ins and outs of your organization and the personalities that make it tick. You know how to work to build consensus and how to motivate others to buy in.

When it comes down to it, you’re really a guru at so many aspects of the functioning of your organization. Now is the time to really bring these traits forward.

But, be patient in tribulation. Keep your passion for your organization at the forefront of everything you do to help lead change to move your organization from one mired in complacency to one that thrives on bringing constant improvement and efficiency to the daily practice of law. Your clients deserve it!