What is the difference between the guy in the photo and the legal profession in 2017?
The photo is a painting of a sixteenth-century Italian nobleman, as you can see he likes to dress for effect. A man of importance dispensing justice as a wealthy and influential individual. The legal profession, or at least some parts of it, still like to dress up with wigs and gowns. The man and his dress sense went out of fashion sometime in the eighteenth century as a result of the modernisation of Italy after Napoleon was defeated. However, despite the technical revolution driven by the World Wide Web during the past 25 years, the legal profession feels to me as if it is still working with some practices that our friend in the picture would have been able to relate to.
I read a lot of commentary in the business section of the newspapers that artificial intelligence will create massive threats to many industries and in particular the professional sectors. I see this and understand it. The problem is that too many law firms are structured in such a way where they do not have the resources to invest in the research and development to “rethink” or “rewire” the way they deliver services. If they do have the resources, then the old fashioned model of partnerships restricts management from using the profits to invest, as understandably, if you are a partner then you want your share of all profit! Fair enough, but what about the investment for the future?
I have seen the future and it is alternative business structures (“ABS”). The only way in which law firms can rapidly develop new ways of using technology to deliver services is with external investment. An ABS is the best structure to attract investment and permit the required R & D to develop systems.
The legal profession can still embrace this challenging environment. Solicitors and barristers are the best people to understand what clients want and how to deliver services in a way where quality is not forsaken. However, major changes are needed to working practices and the cost base which underpins law firms. So how are we at LCL developing our services to ensure we are able to meet the challenges facing the profession? Getting the right cost base is essential. We operate as an independent firm of solicitors and our infrastructure is supported by the rest of the Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group. With much lower costs of entry to the market we operate in, we have a greater opportunity to pass on cost savings to our clients. Investment in technology is another way in which we are looking to automate some of our document production.
These are exciting times at LCL as we move forwards into our second full trading year.
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