22 November 2018

This was my second time attending VQ Forum. Personally, I enjoyed the day immensely, meeting many attendees and listening to the presentations and panel discussions. Iit was also a successful event from CSI’s point of view. We met several delegates and firms looking for a new software for client management, time registering, invoicing and reporting. As a sponsor, we also had the opportunity to present our company and its journey in Sweden – and to share the good news of CSI’s business growing steadily.

While listening to the presentations I was struck by their relevance for us as a software provider or companies in any industry. Several presenters highlighted that law firms are not that much different from other companies - their businesses are ruled by the same market forces and challenges as all are. The following five ideas were my favorite takeaways.

Speed of learning new things matters

According to Johan Eriksson from Google the only sustainable long-term strategy and competitive advantage is to learn things faster than the competitors. The world is changing faster all the time, and if we do not allocate time for learning new things each week, we risk getting run over by others. Johan’s recommendation was to set aside five hours every week for learning. He also believes in automating all repetitive tasks; as soon as you repeat something you have already done once, you need to think about how to automate it.

Project Management for everyone's benefit

As highlighted by Hans Schuurman, founder of Dutch legal platform Law4ce, clients expect value, efficiency, predictability, communication and understanding of their business. From the law firm’s point of view, it may seem like clients are also expecting lower pricing, but reducing prices seldom has a positive effect on the outcome.

Instead, improving the law firm’s processes and project management skills should result in a positive outcome. The client can expect to get more value, efficiency and predictability, as better processes enable better communication and more time for learning, e.g. about client’s business. Lawyers benefit from working in a more organized matter, focusing on improving processes (instead of pure results) as well as their personal skills, and working in a happier and more motivated environment.

Importance of Knowledge Management

We Finns might not be the most communicative people, but when it comes to business management – efficient communication seems to be a global challenge.

Paul Corney brought up that reticence is common even between legal teams. For law firms - whose business is selling knowledge - managing and optimizing knowledge awareness needs to be highly prioritized. Communication in the form of sharing and collaboration should ideally be encouraged and even incentivized.

There are many tools available. It’s only a question of finding the right ones that support the firm’s needs in the best way. This will be a crucial factor for the future law firms.

Start small when adapting new tech

This was emphasized by many of the speakers. Change is hard when we try to go all in right away. This is one of the reasons why many companies are unable to change in the desired direction; it’s simply too big of a step to take.

In lean production methods it is called “kaizen”, the power of the small step. In the short run the change won’t make a big difference, but over time we can notice huge improvements, as a result of many small steps. One example could be using and sharing a document template for agreements. So, no need to buy and implement the most advanced AI tool by the end of the year. 

Company management skills are crucial

Orsolya Görgényi from Szecskay Attorneys at Law (Budapest) was one of the speakers who emphasized that law firms are no different than other companies. She went deeper into detail on what managing a company entails from her point of view.

Orsolya referred to movies like The Matrix and Limitless, very fascinating films that discuss human potential. She spoke about the importance of soft skills when running a company. The firm needs to invest in employee training, communication, sales skills, project management skills etc. As the employees are trained and their personal skills evolve, the firm will also grow.

She also reminded us that strategy is one of the corner stones for business management. How does your firm differ from others on the market, what is the vision for the firm and where do you want to be in the future? Only when you have a clear strategy should you implement the suitable technology that supports the strategy.

The first benefit of technology is efficiency and freeing up time for more billable activities, instead of spending time on administration and chasing new clients. The second stage is automation, e.g. document automation. The third and last stage is big data and AI. So, once again – one step at a time.

As a summary….

Make learning a priority. Develop processes and project management skills. Facilitate effective communication and knowledge sharing. Choose evolution rather than revolution when adapting new technologies. But most importantly, make sure your company has a clear strategy, which all your efforts, such as skills development, process development and technology investments should support effectively.

I will keep these takeaways in mind and implement them when making decisions about the next small steps that will take our business towards great future achievements.

John Raunio

CSI Helsinki, Country Manager, Sweden

Passionate about learning and continuous development. Gets motivated by challenges and willingness to make a positive difference. Is fascinated by man's ability to be creative and innovative, as well as solve problems.