The labor market is tighter than ever. In addition, legal technology is radically changing the field of work. In order to do more work with fewer people, a new legal management strategy is needed. Sdu spoke to specialists about bottlenecks and possible solutions. Five tempting statements highlighted.
One of the speakers at the Legal Management Heroes Round Table of Sdu and VOXIUS was Pieter van der Hoeven. He shared his knowledge and experiences as a former lawyer and entrepreneur. This resulted in provocative statements and, above all, good tips. Pieter explains them if desired.
Pieter van der Hoeven conceived and developed the timekeeping product Clocktimizer with his partner Bram Fokke. This smart tool provides insight into who does what, when, where and at what cost, enabling data-driven pricing for law firms. Clocktimizer won the Legal Tech Award during the Golden Hourglasses in 2019 and has users worldwide. Pieter has since sold his company to Litera and now works here as Vice President Corporate Development.
‘Make sure your employees are more productive and set priorities‘
“Many lawyers often do work that they think is really stupid. It’s a shame. You have very smart people working at law firms. Surely they should be thinking much more about solutions to big issues like mediation or litigation rather than dealing with administrative tasks? Legal managers therefore have to prioritize. Why does a highly trained attorney review a nondisclosure agreement (NDA)? There are other solutions for that.
Instead of a smart tool, you can of course also improve your processes. Look at what kind of NDA you currently use as an office or as a client and whether this is generating much more discussion than necessary. Use the intelligence of your employees to think about how you can make this process smarter.
And where do you start prioritizing? Where your pain points are! They are easy to ask. Ask your employees what takes up a lot of time in their work and what they consider to add little or no value. In this way, you get people to think about their work and you, as a legal manager, gain insight into pain points and opportunities for your organization or department. An additional benefit is that you also indicate that you want your employees to be able to do a more enjoyable job and that you listen to their feedback.”
‘What do you want people to do and what do you want the robots to do?’
“When I said robots during the Round Table, I meant computers. It’s about looking at what your people do for work. Research shows that if people do the same work twenty times, they become sloppier and less creative. They also lose touch with the group of people with whom they do their work. You have to imagine that a lawyer has to make shareholder decisions all day long. After twenty pieces there is a good chance he will become complacent because he is not challenged. Then you make mistakes. You don’t have that with a computer. So number 20 is as well constructed as number 1. So you can also say: What are the variables in a shareholder decision? A computer cannot think of this and thinks for a human. How do you enter these variables? It is also research work for one person. You find out once and then save. You don’t need to check this next time and the computer can do it. No, a computer does not take over all the work. It only executes commands entered by humans. First of all, think about why your employees are doing work that a computer can run faster.”
‘When you change, it’s important to arouse curiosity’
“Nobody likes change. It’s against our nature. According to our evolution, if something doesn’t change, it’s safe. But if you’re going to change, first ask your people how things work, how things can be improved, and what is available to make things better. It arouses curiosity. And that’s important. Because if there isn’t one, change becomes very complicated. It can also be an open question: what do you think? I’ve primarily meant curiosity as being open facing change and intrinsically motivating people to think about the change.”
‘As a legal manager, you don’t need to look at your processes every year’
“It is not necessary to check all your work processes every year to see if improvements are possible. And as a legal manager, you probably don’t have time for that at all. Look at the processes you want to prioritize or where you bottleneck experiences.”
‘In other professional groups, it is not really better in terms of innovation than in the legal profession’
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while. There is some truth to the fact that lawyers professionally are always looking for risks and not for opportunities. That’s good, because that’s their job and they’re good at it. It can you also see in conversations. No one is as good at recognizing hot air as lawyers. They see through it flawlessly.
On the other hand, there are also people who strike for a good argument. At least some. I realize now that I am generalizing terribly, but where there is overwhelming evidence, there is one common sense lawyers and adjust their strategy. This means that if you can clearly explain why something makes work better or faster, then a lawyer will want to innovate. If they don’t want to change, you apparently haven’t provided sufficient evidence as to why they should. So better convince them.
And finally: look at other professional groups, for example general practitioners, where they also say: renew, renew, renew. It’s not that difficult there either. And where sectors are leading the way, such as the financial sector, I wonder how modern and optimized they actually are. It’s really not like the legal profession lags behind everything, I’m just saying.”
‘Don’t talk, but brush’
“This statement is not from the Round Table, but I would like to add. Because all this talk is very nice, but how should legal leaders implement the cases discussed? How do they solve the current challenges? And what do they really want to change? It depends of course also by whom they will reach out and take with them But most of all I will tell them: don’t tumble, just brush! Just get started. Lots of tips have been shared.”
See the round table here.