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Are technological advancements and client expectations holding law firms back?

14/12/2017
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Rapid advancements in technology have been widely adopted by employers in varying sectors and geographies - and for the most part, they’ve been introduced highly effectively. However, new research suggests that the sheer rate at which technology is advancing - coupled with rising client expectations - has actually hindered the profitability of the majority of law firms here in the UK.

In an attempt to become more agile for example, and reflect the wishes and desires of millennials, law firms have set out to embrace mobile working arrangements…yet this has often proved both expensive and somewhat patchy in its effectiveness.

So where are firms falling short and what can they do to ensure their success?

PwC’s annual survey of law firms reveals that a combination of rising client expectations, increased pricing pressures and staffing costs, and a failure to keep abreast of new technologies, has led to average fee income growth of just 3%. In addition, half of the firms surveyed saw domestic profits fall. Given that technology can be of huge benefit in reducing staffing costs – through automated processes, for example – and reacting faster to clients’ demands, are these firms missing a trick? It would appear so…

As David Snell, partner and leader of PwC’s law firm advisory group says“Fundamental action is needed to future-proof the shape and operation of the legal sector. Technology will impact all areas, from client service delivery to business support and, importantly, staff recruitment and retention.” 

Clearly, firms need to harness technology to their advantage – not only to assist their talent management strategies but crucially to deliver a better, more efficient service to their clients.

Increased agility and a focus on the client

So, how can firms focus their efforts on systems that will enable them to be more agile, increase efficiencies and ultimately deliver a better client experience? Client demands are changing, and the pressure is on law firms to manage their relationships and use their technology more innovatively.

The people agenda will continue to play a large part, and against a backdrop of skills shortages and intense competition for talent, the legal sector must embrace emerging technologies to ensure the very best legal candidates want to work at their firms. Snell, for instance, highlights artificial intelligence as one such innovation that will not only aid retention but also help firms to achieve more effective staffing levels and react faster to changing client demands.

The answer?

Recruiting, developing and retaining top talent remains a priority for boards, and while many have embraced the agile working model, it’s perhaps time that more follow suit given PwC’s findings. Especially when we consider that 84% of all respondents in a recent Grass Roots survey indicated that their benefits package is keeping them in their current role.

The message is clear; if firms want to keep staffing levels maintained in order to meet the ever-growing demands of their client base, agile working must be a part of their business model.

How does yours compare? For more information on how to adopt a more effective recruitment and retention strategy, talk to us here at Clayton Legal.

Call the team today for information about how Clayton Legal can assist your firm with recruitment and retention strategies. And for more insights from the team take a look at our other blogs and resources.

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