During the past 10 years, economic uncertainties and geopolitical challenges have increased competition among consulting and legal firms globally. Firms are under massive pressure to provide above-and-beyond excellence to their clients and deliver services in a timely manner.
For other industries facing similar pressures, technology is often the panacea. But legal and consulting firms have been slow in their digital transformations, reluctant to let go of customs and practices from bygone eras, and fearful of losing control. Until now. Several concurrent challenges are spurring these industries to rethink how they do business, and how technology can help them gain a competitive edge. Let’s explore those challenges:
- Remote work’s data explosion. The shift to remote work has added more complexity to two already complex industries. With employees now sitting in home offices around the world, more information than ever is being created and spread across intranets, collaboration tools, case management systems, databases, and more. Keeping sensitive information safe–paramount in these industries–while making it easy to find for those approved to see it is a major concern.
- Employee burnout. The 2021 EY Law Survey, which collaborated with the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession to interview 2,000 business leaders and 1,000 senior legal officers around the world, found that 75% of General Counsels say managing their current workloads is difficult. At the same time, workloads are projected to increase 25% in the next three years1.
Pressure to deliver on time is mounting, along with the volume of information that attorneys and consultants need to sift through to do their jobs. It’s because of this that 47% of General Counsels in the same EY Law Survey said that employee morale is being negatively impacted by the increasing volume of low value work.
The blurred lines that remote work creates between work and home in industries already known for their “always-on” approach further compound the burnout issue.
- Staying competitive. It’s a fast-paced world, and today’s clients expect their law and consulting firms to deliver the smooth and speedy experiences they’re used to in other areas of their lives. Data management and information sourcing issues are slowing down teams, creating bottlenecks that impede everything from eDiscovery to contract review and finalization. A Deloitte report found that more than 60% of legal department executives said “recurring tasks and data management constraints prevent their legal teams from creating value at their organization.” A similar number of business development leaders (57%) in the 2021 EY Law Survey reported that “inefficiencies in the contracting process slow revenue recognition.”
- Growing expectations. Employees at these organizations are expected to have deep expertise in their areas to do their job well. As a whole, employees at these firms need to be enabled to make the best decisions possible so that they can:
- Stay competitive – both with top-notch work product and competitive rates
- Win new clients
- Provide excellent client services
- Retain top talent
- Retrieving information. One of the biggest challenges facing these firms today is retrieving information such as regulations and cases from many different collections and sources, both internally and externally.
Across the geographically distributed firms, workers need to find information and expertise - quickly and on a regular basis - that is buried within millions of documents spread over multiple silos within the organization. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that some of the highest value information is locked behind the so-called “ethics wall” and only accessible by executives within the organization.
- Lagging adoption. Most law and consulting firms have resisted a full digital transformation, citing valid reasons such as data breaches and the huge task of digitizing historical data. But as technology continues to advance and improve, these issues become less mountains, more molehills. Bringing these advancements to light, along with fostering a cultural shift in favor of a more client-centric approach will greatly increase interest in technology investments. This is already beginning to happen. According to the Thomson Reuters’ State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report, nearly three quarters of UK partners feel there should be more investment in legal tech2. And Garnter projects that by 2025, legal departments will triple their technology spend3.
At the root of each of these challenges is information. To address them, firms need solutions to tame unruly masses of data into truly useful information that can improve productivity, processes, and business outcomes. Even better, firms need solutions that turn information into intelligence by deeply understanding context and meaning and creating connections to surface exactly what’s needed, when it’s needed. Knowledge Management and tools like enterprise search can make this a reality today. Legal and consulting firms that finally embrace their digital destinies can meet these challenges head on and win big.
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