A friend who holds a senior position in one of the big law firms said to me ‘business has never been harder.’ Certainly, we are all tested by Covid, but I think he might be wrong. Looking back, every 5 -10 years brings a set of seemingly calamitous circumstances with no easy way out of the trouble. On this occasion though, there may be a different way out.
For example, in 1962 the Credit Squeeze looked like the ending for many businesses. In the seventies, hyperinflation came along and interest rates soared to around 20%. Then in 1987 the stock market fell 25% in one day, eventually to fall another 25%, ending the business careers of almost all the prominent tycoons of the eighties. Business struggled along in a low growth environment into the nineties, and the corporate restructuring people were busy. The exuberance of the tech boom in the late nineties was followed by the dot-bomb tech crash of 2001. Things slowly improved until the really big collapse with the Great Recession/Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which caused widespread grief and slowed the economy down for a number of years. Just as the good times were rolling again, Covid-19 came along in early 2020, and now the hard times have returned for many businesses.
Every crisis has a different exit. Often the answer is to cut costs, sack staff, attempt to balance the books, and save the cash until the happier times return.
The big difference this time is that disruptive technology is readily available. Technology helps answer the need to ‘do more with less’ problem, and it has rebutted the old adage ‘you can only choose two of ‘better, faster, cheaper.’ A disruptive business, like the runaway success of Amazon, illustrates that businesses can produce a better product, much faster and more cheaply.
If you are a general counsel your current problems likely have to do with:
- Picking up the load of increased compliance, especially if you are with a financial institution
- Static or shrinking legal budgets
- Finding time to play more of a strategic role in your organization
- Processing a larger volume of matters, many of them non-strategic
- Leading a dispersed team of lawyers working from home.
Potential responses such as ‘reduce the amount of legal work’, ‘hire more lawyers’, ‘work harder’ or ‘ignore the repetitive stuff’ won’t really help you.
A more logical response is to consider how technology could solve some of your problems, taking into account the likely benefits, the financial cost, and the time needed for training and change management. You have a smorgasbord of possibilities now, ranging from triage and intake, matter management, document management, contract management, spend management, and detailed legal reporting.
Many lawyers are like the old woodcutter who was too busy cutting wood to stop and sharpen the axe. However, if you and your team have the time and energy there are many ways to improve how you work together.
Please contact us if you would like to have a low-pressure discussion on legal operations and legal tech. We understand it’s a long journey, and we’re happy to be a support to you through the change.