Law firms are facing pressure from inside and outside the organization. A recent survey by BigHand of 825 legal professionals at mid- and large-size firms throughout North America and the United Kingdom finds that 75% of respondents reported a decline in client services over the past 12 months.

At the same time, increases in lawyer salaries and the fight to recruit and retain the best talent are putting additional pressure on firms’ bottom line.

Dave Cook, Global Director of Resource Management at BigHand

“Demand is declining and the cost of doing business is higher,” says Dave Cook, BigHand’s Global Director of Resource Management. “That’s translated to CFOs and other finance professionals getting more involved in the resource-management process so that they can realize return on those investments they’ve made over the last two years.”

These pressures have many law firms investing in resource-management tools; the BigHand survey shows that 63% of respondents report they have begun implementing the technology.

For law firms investing in resource management, the technology streamlines operations and increases transparency. It can also assist with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and career development programs, which boost talent recruitment and retention. DEI efforts and a well-functioning legal staff also demonstrate to clients that the firm is keeping up with their interests and concerns.

Resource Management Is DEI Management

Resource management helps law firms meet their DEI goals.

“It’s critical to law firms that they are seen as an employer of choice for diverse attorneys in the market – and law firm clients expect law firms to have structures in place to support this,” Cook says. “Implementing Resource management structures and technology demonstrates to clients that law firms are taking diversity and inclusion seriously—that they’re putting processes, technology, and people in place to make sure that there is an equitable distribution of work and that they’re providing equal access to career-enhancing opportunities.”

BigHand’s research reveals, however, a curiosity: 85% of respondents reported facing increased client pressure over the prior 12 months “to resource matters with diversity in mind” – but only 21% of surveyed firms view DEI as a top-three priority. Only 44% of surveyed firms indicated that reviewing DEI policies and initiatives by May 2024 was any kind of priority.

Firms experience this disconnect, Cook says, because they lack data visibility.

“Firms are stuck on how they manage DEI within the wider context of everything else they’re trying to manage,” says Cook. “Resource management helps not only with profit; it helps with these other priorities– and decision makers need to be focusing on both because otherwise, they’re going to fall behind, lose clients, and then lose staff.”

Career-Development Connections

The point is the same when assessing how firms treat career development. Consider that 42% of surveyed firms report that they prioritize reviewing associates’ career-development opportunities – but that 62% report lacking vital information about lawyer training and development.

Cook says that these two issues – DEI and career development – are linked. With resource management, Cook notes, neutrally democratized data dramatically reduces unconscious bias as matters get resourced.

‘When a resource-management structure is put in place, data is collected on each individual lawyer around their skills, experience, and career-developmental goals,” Cook says. “It’s about keeping lawyers engaged; the best way to do that is to make sure they’ve got access to opportunities that are of interest and that will enhance their career.”

For law firms that need to retain talent and improve the bottom line at a time of rising costs, resource management is one way to gain greater visibility into data and use that information to benefit the whole firm.

Joe Stanganelli is a writer and recovering attorney. He is managing director of content advisory Blackwood King LC.

To find out more or access the full BigHand report, click here


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