How Law Firms Can Lead in a Dynamic Industry


Since the 2008–2009 Recession, the conventional attorney-client engagement model has been trending toward extinction. The current economic compression, combined with the disruptive launch of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, has only accelerated this movement. Corporate in-house teams are striving to be more economically efficient, and no longer “triage” all legal matters to their law firms. In most instances, their focus has shifted to short-term savings, instead of long-term departmental growth and strategy.

As in-house legal teams streamline their own internal workflows, legal officers are conducting much of the “business of law” in-house. And they’re being very thoughtful about which law firms get which type of work. Now more than ever, General Counsel (GCs) demand faster, more technology-based legal solutions that provide automation, enhanced value, and considerable cost savings. The willingness to educate young associates on their dime is simply gone.

The race to stay relevant.

Legal process outsourcing companies (LPOs) and alternative service providers (ASPs) in Poland, India, Brazil, and other countries have been quick to capitalize on shifting client demands. They do so by offering unique service delivery models, specialized legal services, cutting-edge digital capabilities, and cost-effective pricing structures.

How can law firms stay competitive with LPOs and avoid loss of market share as the industry evolves at a lightning pace? Firstly, they can no longer rely on the “old school” way of doing things. In today’s landscape, the feverish pace of digital transformation has made innovation even more imperative. In-house clients want savvy law firm partners to help them intelligently navigate complex legal challenges; reduce external spend; and make smarter, more strategic business decisions. Firms must be proactive and develop dynamic capabilities that keep them ahead of the curve.

Seven strategies firms can use to avoid getting left behind.

The level of innovation a law firm offers is bound only by their creativity, IT capabilities, and understanding of the technological tools available. Below are some ways firms can add value to their offerings.

  • Technology-powered operations. The legal industry is undergoing a radical, tech-driven transformation, with AI at the helm. These tools can be service-delivery game changers:
    • Legal workflow automation software can help make law firm operations more precise and efficient, automating routine tasks and allowing lawyers to focus on high-value work—which in turn enhances client service.
    • Generative AI technologies are centralizing and automating routine tasks previously done by attorneys. These range from legal writing, document analysis, and billing to legal research and discovery, contract drafting and review, and data extraction. AI automation can help significantly cut down on billable hours for cost-conscious clients.
    • Predictive AI tools can be used to forecast legal outcomes and help lawyers understand the odds of winning certain cases.
    • AI-powered billing helps law firms prevent revenue leakage, speed up the billing cycle, and yielding data that can improve decision making. It benefits in-house clients, too, by providing greater transparency and accuracy, ensuring compliance with billing guidelines, and enabling customized billing structures.
    • By harnessing AI-driven automation and data analysis tools, firms can keep attorneys focused on critical legal matters and make better decisions on behalf of their clients. Beyond adopting these technologies, they must ensure their lawyers and support staff have the training they need to make the most of them.
  • Advice on business operations. Legal issues are not isolated problems; they impact the entire organization. Today’s clients expect their lawyers to have holistic expertise that goes beyond the field of law, with the ability to advise them on current and potential business challenges spanning all their operations. This requires a firm’s lawyers to possess solid business acumen as well as an intimate understanding of clients’ industries.
  • Customized solutions. While a client in the past would present a roadmap as to how they wanted a case handled, they are now asking law firms to deliver solutions that are thoughtful, creative, and financially efficient. Some firms are providing additional, differentiating value to their clients by:
  • Serving as the design architects for cases, creating not only budgets but also litigation plans, efficiency analyses, and intelligence on various court districts. Some even assist their clients with the selection of automated legal workflow tools or contracts management tools based on their experiences.
  • Partnering with in-house legal operations professionals or offering technical expertise to create streamlined workflows, if a client lacks a legal operations team.
  • Strategizing with a client regarding requests for inquiry/discovery related to federal and local government agencies.
  • Creating novel alternative work arrangements to get a specific job done, such as bringing on interim talent.
  • Assisting in-house counsel with the creation and implementation of diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs.
  • Conducting pre-matter planning sessions, as clients increasingly focus on optimizing the management of legal work.
  • Unbundled legal services. Law firms offering a la carte services certainly bucks tradition—but innovative lawyers are flexible. A key component of this flexibility is allowing clients to opt in for the specific services they need (e.g., contract preparation, temporary attorneys for novel issues) and to opt out for those they do not need to prevent bloated bills. This is an attractive option to clients who cannot afford end-to-end legal services or who handle specific aspects of legal matters internally. Firms can also consider offering alternative fee arrangements such as payment plans, contingency fees, or fixed or flat fees based on the industry standard.
  • On-shoring/right-shoring. Recognizing the financial efficiencies and 24/7 response times of LPOs , some law firms are moving their discovery and due diligence operations to smaller U.S. cities. In these regions, labor and real estate are often considerably more attractive.
  • Project management. Legal project management and workflow systems are quickly becoming high value adds for outside counsel, helping firms to work more efficiently and bolster client satisfaction. There are a variety of software tools (e.g., Trello, Asana, Slack, Microsoft Team, and Agiloft) that can improve coordination and collaboration among virtual teams across various locations and allow team members to easily prioritize and manage tasks within a project.
  • Client engagement apps. Today’s clients want to be able to access their case or litigation information in real time, anytime, from wherever they are. Providing interactive, self-serve portals and real-time dashboards can help eliminate unnecessary meetings and reduce the burden on a firm’s attorneys and staff. Clients will appreciate being able to continuously monitor the progress of their cases and get the information they need without delay. “Law firms today offer clients a range of value-added activities, but it is important to understand which ones your clients really appreciate—and which ones are a waste,” said Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein, CEO of the legal procurement trade organization Buying Legal Counsel. According to the council’s research, clients (in particular, professional buyers of legal services) favor hotlines or access to experts for quick questions. “Not having the (billable hour) clock ticking for every quick email or phone call clearly endears law firms to clients.”

Working with consulting, recruiting, and advisory firms can help law firms find new ways to optimize workflow, address skill gaps, allocate resources efficiently, and achieve savings that can be ultimately passed on to their clients.

A forward-thinking law firm will not shy away from innovation; instead, they’ll embrace it as a powerful vehicle for growth. By leveraging the latest tools and greater service flexibility, law firms can provide infinitely more value to their clients. They’ll also be better positioned to meet market demands as they continue to change. This is a key opportunity for firms to reinvent their legal services and build a competitive edge—by meeting client needs in a whole new way.


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