Technology and the art of the “can’t do”

Technology and the art of the “can’t do”

I recently had the pleasure of attending an excellent event hosted by LexisNexis entitled “Technology – the secret to effective law firm transformation”.  The aim was to explore the role of technology in facilitating the business transformation needed to meet the demands of the modern commercial buyer of legal services.

While the event was naturally focused on technology, I felt the discussions provided an apt metaphor for wider behaviours in the legal profession and in particular its seemingly pathological resistance to change.


More than ever, law firms are under pressure to differentiate their service offerings in order to compete.  But differentiation needs to be relevant to the buyer.  Inward-looking differentiation is meaningless other than for vanity.  Law firm favourites are things like expertise, talent, being big and being international.  These are becoming increasingly weak when looked at through the lens of the buyer.

First, it is clear that there is no scarcity of specialist expertise out there in virtually any legal discipline.  Similarly, many law firms are offering identically attractive reward packages to graduates, so claims of “attracting the top talent” are rendered meaningless.  Many law firms are growing by merger or acquisition, without being able to demonstrate to the market how bigger is better and not just more of the same.  A similar case can be made for the globalisation argument which, although it offers business benefits of perceived safety in diverse markets, the disruption sweeping through the legal market does not respect international boundaries.

The differentiators that really matter to buyers of legal services - the people who are driving change in this market and the ones on whom the differentiators really need to make an impact – primarily revolve around service delivery:  how services are delivered, in what form, for how much and, collectively, how much value is created for them.  This is the area where that precious competitive advantage can be found.

Resisting differentiation through technology

It was evident from in di

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