...then apply the techology.
If you apply technology -- even artificial intelligence -- to a flawed work process, you will only make mistakes and lose money faster.
Before a law firm applies a technological tool or system to its internal operations, especially at the practice group level, it should first analyze, understand, and implement responses to weaknesses in the internal systems and processes by which it prepares and delivers legal services to clients.
This does not mean that advanced technology and artificial intelligence have no place in process improvement. They can give a practice group, for example, tremendously powerful insights into the causes and impacts of poor quality that are often overlooked. They can help lawyers and managers break away from paradigms that obscure newer, better ways of practicing law.
Here are some of the ways that today's technology can lead to levels of continuous process improvement and sustainable improvements in profitability that were not available to smaller law firms only ten years ago.
Identify and address inefficiencies: By reviewing and optimizing work processes first, law firms can identify and address any existing inefficiencies, redundancies, or bottlenecks. This ensures that when technology is implemented, it will be applied to processes that are already streamlined and efficient, maximizing its potential benefits.
Establish a strong foundation: Before investing in advanced technology or AI, it's important to have a solid foundation in place. This includes well-defined processes, a clear understanding of the firm's goals, and a strong organizational culture. Implementing technology without addressing these fundamental aspects may lead to suboptimal results or exacerbate existing issues. In other words, the law firm loses money faster than ever before.
Maximize ROI: Advanced technology and AI often require significant investments in terms of time, money, and resources. By optimizing work processes first, law firms can ensure that they are in the best position to maximize their return on investment when deploying new technology. This is critically important for small law firms.
Improve user adoption: If employees are accustomed to working with inefficient or outdated processes, they may be resistant to adopting new technology. However, if they see the benefits of improved processes firsthand, they are more likely to embrace and effectively utilize new technological tools.
Reduce complexity: Complex and inefficient processes can make it difficult to effectively implement and integrate advanced technology or AI. By simplifying and streamlining processes, law firms can create a more conducive environment for technological adoption and ensure smoother integration.
Enhance customization: By understanding their work processes in-depth, law firms can better identify their unique needs and requirements. They can understand how those needs might vary, as they frequently do, among practice groups and specialties within the same firm. This allows them to select and customize technology solutions that are most appropriate for their specific practice area or firm size, rather than relying on generic or one-size-fits-all solutions.
Prioritize technology investments: By first identifying the most critical areas for improvement in their work processes, law firms can prioritize which technology investments are likely to yield the highest impact on their overall efficiency and productivity. Often the greatest improvements result from relatively small, subtle factors that have often been overlooked by traditional management paradigms and assumptions.
Manage change effectively: Implementing new technology often involves significant changes to work processes and routines. By first improving processes and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, law firms can better prepare their employees for change and ensure a smoother transition to new technological tools.
By focusing on improving work processes before implementing advanced technology or AI, law firms can help to create a strong foundation for success, maximize their return on investment, and ensure that their technology investments drive meaningful improvements in efficiency and client service. As a result, a firm's investment of time, attention, and resources (including our consulting fees) to achieve solid, sustainable results has never been lower.
But always keep in mind, that technology is a tool, not a "solution." It can help identify, quantify, and prioritize the defects in work processes that result in poor quality, unprofitable rework to fix mistakes that could have been avoided, client dissatisfaction, and lost opportunities.