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Great article in the Harvard Business Review this week about the increasing start up and new law culture in the legal sector.  Although the article is US focused I’ve no doubt the Australian market has some very close similarities.

The HBR article which you can read here discusses the overwhelming pressure big law firms place on their employees – to the point where many of these lawyers are leaving en masse to either join “New Law” or are starting innovative new niche practices.

I’ll take the point of this article a bit further. While firms in Australia continue to debate whether they should provide flexible hours, many lack the technology systems to provide any flexibility at all.  So dated are the IT platforms in a majority of traditional firms that remote work is near-impossible and the thought of the paperwork piling up on the desk is enough to force even the most relaxed lawyer in to the office to prevent a major backlog.

Contrary to the HBR article I don’t think all lawyers want to work less hours – I think lawyers want to work from anywhere.  From the office, home, from court, at the beach – much like their counterparts in other professional sectors like Marketing, IT or Consulting.

What we’re really seeing here is a vast, vast gap between innovative law firms who make great use of IT – and by that I mean start up firms who have immediately adopted cloud and mobile technology avoiding paper based files and sidestepping servers and other complex rigid pieces of technology.  It’s not just startup firms either – there are many law firms who have taken a bold step and made IT innovation part of their culture by building a technology roadmap and executing on that roadmap for the improvement of their workers lives.

Compare this to traditional firms who are wedded to legacy pieces of hardware and software that are inflexible and .. frankly.. carbon dated in comparison.  Is it really acceptable today to have computer systems that are slow or inaccessible from the outside?  Is it really hard to believe that those firms who are adopting modern technology are retaining the best staff, have higher engagement, better productivity and stronger margins?

The problem isn’t just that law firms are inflexible – it’s that lawyers both young or mature aren’t silly – they see their counterparts in other sectors working in modern ways and they want the same.  The traditional law firm doesn’t have the technology to support that and until they do we will continue to see the gap widen.  A new form of law is emerging – the disruptors and innovators.


About the Author: James Vickery is the founder and CEO of I Know IT, a transformative IT services provider. James connects law leaders to their strategy through technology with a firm belief that lawyers must re-enter their profession as innovators, thinking and acting as technology companies do in order to survive, compete and prosper in a digital economy.

James enables this new way of thinking and executing through consulting, coaching and delivery of technology solutions to Australian and international organisations. .

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