Sunday, March 18, 2012
Author - Catherine Hartley
by Catherine Hartley, Marketing Manager EMEA, for Managing Partner Magazine, March 2012
Many thousands of words have already been written about the unprecedented change continuing to affect the legal industry. First it was about the pressure on fees brought about by the current economic climate and now it is hard to turn a page without seeing some reference to the implications that the Legal Services Act is having on how firms do their business. These would not be topics of much interest had they not had a direct impact on the very fabric of traditional law firms and everyone who works in them.
We can’t do much about what is happening with the world economy at the ground level – we cut our cloth accordingly - but the impact of the LSA requires some strategic thinking and some bold moves from law firms. Those who were more ‘aware’ saw the writing on the wall with the onset of ABS and had plans in place to merge or reshape, viewing the changesas either a threat or an opportunity. The impact that OFR has, however, affects every firm or legal department whatever shape they are and, while timelines might have slipped, the issues of compliance are still looming and the formerly steady road that law firms travelled is looking decidedly bumpy.
Compliance seems to be the scary word. Whereas we have been used to following the rules of compliance from the old handbook, we now have to achieve outcomes which can appear to be a bit wishy washy and open to interpretation. They say the rules have gone, but then what are the ‘Indicative Behaviours’? What we are finding is that compliance issues seem to be about processes and these have to have to be reviewed. Take Client Matter Inception for instance; proving audit compliance is a headache for not only the law firm, but also the SRA. File Review is another one (granted that only firms who wish to be Lexcel accredited must do them) but where in the new handbook does it say these are mandatory? Whatever process we are talking, it is usually laborious and, to a large extent, manual. To illustrate the manual element - we have seen a law firm who was keeping their local stationary shop in business by the amount of coloured Post-it notes it used as part of its manual file review process. Luckily we managed to help them save a few trees, save hundreds of man hours and a lot of frustration, as well as help making them compliant.
The business of proving compliance has a direct effect on the bottom line and those found to be non-compliant end up paying vast sums of money for PI Insurance. The worst that can happen is that insurance is refused and that area of law is no longer allowed to be practiced. We have found that risk management teams appear to be the only crew gaining in size rather than reducing and, in one firm we know of, they have employed eight new people in their conflict checking team. The answer to all of this need not be that complicated or that expensive. Technology is there to increase efficiency and, although standard applications cannot address the issues that firms are facing, there are measures that can be taken. CFO’s and CTO’s will be developing nervous twitches with the prospect of ripping out legacy systems and starting again but, with a bit of innovation, they could save themselves the cost and the bother.
And this is the point where we come in. We are experts in workflow. We have been manufacturing the software for years and have been in the legal market place for as long, known for our top drawer digital dictation solutions. But this is only part of the picture.
Workflow is important across all processes within an organisation, and not just the digital dictation we are known for. We deliver a process that works to help make law firms confirm to OFR and become Lexcel accredited, as well as offering competitive advantage to those who have chosen to develop sophisticated workflow across the whole firm. What we call our products - Business Process Management, Digital Dictation, Speech Recognition, Mobile solutions - and how we deliver it technically – Server based or On Demand – is actually neither here nor there. With a combination of the solutions we are already helping firms with automating their processes such as File Reviews, Client & Matter Inception, Complaints Procedures and many more. What we offer is a solution that fits in with legacy systems, negating the need to replace them, developing them to produce an automated system that is fully auditable and makes life just a little bit easier.
For more info contact Catherine Hartley (email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone +44 (0) 118 984 2133).
To read the article, as it first appeared in Managing Partner Magazine, click here.
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