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“Machines won’t replace human lawyers!” This, at any rate, is the defensive claim put forward by some lawyers concerned. However, a wide range of legal knowledge is available fast and comprehensibly on the internet today, which is already sufficient for many clients. Furthermore, digitalisation will do certain jobs, i.e. also legal jobs from the entire value creation chain – simply because technology can do those tasks faster, better or cheaper.
In particular, lawyers will keep the creative aspects of legal work and above all provide the non-legal parts related to the services which lawyers still tend to overlook or underestimate. This includes conveying a sense of security, showing empathy for customers and, all in all, a professional approach to customers during the entire customer journey (yes: this also exists in the field of legal advice) in order to ultimately create the desired customer experience. After all, only this latter will guarantee a high degree of customer satisfaction and thus loyal customers for lawyers, i.e. customers who return to and recommend their lawyers to third parties – the most effective two advertising measures of all!
This development went through various stages. When the first legal departments were set up, the debate was still about the distinction between “make or buy”. Later, the question was how the right value creation chain would have to look like and how it could be most optimally created and managed in terms of operation. In the latest few years, the focus increasingly shifted to the possible effects of digitalisation in the legal industry. And today, we are more concerned to assess lawyers as people and human capital.
Legal advisors who aver that customers invariably choose a certain lawyer rather than a law firm or legal department thus confirm that legal knowledge does not constitute the USP (barring a few exceptions, of course). If they want to retain or enhance their own employability and exercise leadership responsibility for their colleagues and employees, they will have to focus on the development of human competencies and soft skills, i.e. the improvement of their management, communication, presentation, service and negotiation competencies. Needless to say, further legal education and training must not be neglected for all that, in order for lawyers not to lose their “player’s licence” and to risk cases of professional malpractice.
The establishment of a client relationship and a sustaining relationship of trust takes time, but can be quickly and irretrievably destroyed by each and every individual member of an organisation. This is why for once, the focus will not be on digitalisation in the legal market but on human beings, for it must be remembered that the many digital innovations also only exist because of the special people behind them – and this is no different in the legal industry.
Those, then, who deny the significance of technology in the legal market while also being unwilling to invest in human competence will fast become irrelevant to the legal market. Today is the second best time to do something about this; the best time was yesterday. Or as Eric Schmidt (former chairman of Alphabet) expressed it succinctly: “It’s hard to catch up, and even harder to get ahead, once you fall behind.” (McKinsey Quarterly, March 2020).
So let yourself be inspired at the conference Future of the Legal Market on 7 May 2020 in Zurich, where we will be dealing with how you can win and recruit lawyers and further develop them in the digital age – and how you will lose those lawyers again.
P.S: If you register and cannot attend anymore onsite, please be informed that the speeches will be transmitted online to attendees, so your physical presence is not absolutely necessary.