Yes, innovation is a tired buzzword and a law firm marketing cliché. But it’s also the key to law firms remaining competitive in the face of increased client demands, intensifying competition and ever-greater segmentation of the legal services market. Throughout 2017, we’ve brought you stories of law firms investing in technology, implementing new systems or launching other future-minded experiments. Here are some of the headlines that stood out.
Every other year the firm invites associates to the Bryan Cave Business Academy, an event that’s part training retreat and part hackathon. The goal is to get associates thinking about how technology is reshaping the Big Law business model and to urge the younger lawyers to propose new technology applications.
➤ Culhane Meadows — Stay-at-Home-Rainmakers: A Growing Threat to Big Law
The virtual law firm is attracting real talent with a model that allows lawyers to set their own billing rates and keep 80 percent of their earnings. Founded in 2013 by four lawyers in Dallas and Atlanta, the firm announced Dec. 19 that five new IP partners have joined its ranks. For a contrarian’s view of cloud-based law firms, read Roy Strom’s take in The Law Firm Disrupted.
Dentons continues to set the pace for law firm investment in legal technology through its Silicon Valley accelerator, Nextlaw Labs. This summer Dentons was recognized with an International Law Firm Innovation Award from Law.com affiliate Legal Week for its free lawyer referral program that provides clients with access to more than 21,000 attorneys.
At this year’s ILTACON, a conference put on by the International Legal Technology Association, DLA Piper pulled back the curtain on how it’s been using data analytics to improve client service and retention. The initiative used four years of firm data to learn more about client retention and predict simple steps that would likely lead to growth in a client’s business. The project resulted in a four-prong plan for keeping clients happy and spending.
➤ Pierce Sergenian — New Boutique Touts Litigation Finance Deal to Fund Big Law Battles
Just months into its existence, Los Angeles-based litigation boutique Pierce Sergenian broadcast a deal with litigation financier Pravati Capital that would allow the tiny, upstart firm to take on potentially lucrative contingency fee cases against deep-pocketed adversaries. The deal, reporter Roy Strom noted, showed “how litigation finance may change the prevailing law firm business model by lowering the cost and risk associated with launching a new firm to take plaintiff-side cases on contingency.” Firm founder John Pierce, a Quinn Emanuel alum, said of going public: It “was important for the market to understand that we have the ability to take a case across the finish line.”
➤ Seyfarth Shaw — Seyfarth Shaw Puts ‘Software Robots’ to Use in Automation Push
The firm struck a licensing deal in February with Blue Prism, a software company that promises to automate repetitive tasks such as client onboarding and contract analysis.
“We believe it will help our people operate more efficiently and effectively in doing the things that attorneys want to do, and it will take a lot of the process and moving of data off their plate,” said Stephen Poor, Seyfarth’s chairman emeritus. “It’s not like robot lawyers sitting at their desks.”
➤ Simmons & Simmons — An Innovative Approach to Law Firm Innovation
The London-based law firm launched a new initiative that will allow its lawyers to apply for a break from hourly billing in order to pursue ideas that would help the firm modernize its business. Simmons lawyers will pitch their ideas to a committee and if selected, will be given time to work on their proposals. This addresses a dilemma for law firm partners who typically take a financial hit if they spend time on innovative projects.
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