As I proudly begin my journey as a public speaker--having been asked to take part in presentations for various bodies from schools to the Law Society--my thoughts turn to what my message should be. I'm certainly not short of topics and my overall message is about equality and how women can have it all, without making a compromise between glamour and professionalism. However, my upcoming talk for LegalEx is aimed at the legal industry. It will have to be more tailored and deliver a message that a firm can take forward to improve their offering.
So I will start with the thing I know best: my business, The Link App. More specifically, why I created it: the frustration caused by ineffective communication between lawyers and their clients and how technology can solve this problem.
I laugh to myself while I think of the presentation slides that might accompany my talks. I believe lawyers have a better sense of humour than they are given credit for so a clip of a dinosaur roaming supreme over the Earth, followed by a picture of its skeleton in the Natural History Museum and some quip about it becoming extinct is the most obvious. It's a joke on the surface but underneath it, there is a real message. There are many more law firms who have folded than is comfortable to think of. According to figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, there were 10,726 practising firms in England and Wales in September 2013, a month-on-month fall of more than 200 and the smallest number since the regulator began keeping records in August 2009. This is devastating when you consider the loss of jobs and the loss of competition and services for clients.
We, as legal practitioners, need to change. If you keep doing the same thing, you will almost certainly get the same results. Don't you want to improve them? Change can be a good thing. We need to move with the times and adopt technology in order to improve our offering to clients and to run the most cost-effective practices out there. I could talk for hours about the benefits of The Link App to both law firms and clients alike, but this is not a sales pitch. In the absence of details about The Link App, I will say one of the most basic things I say during meetings with law firms, which is simply: "There is an app for everything!" Of course, that does a massive disservice to my app and its capabilities but nevertheless, it is true.
Let me use the banking industry as an example. I barely use my online banking facility, let alone go into a physical building to bank because it's just so much more convenient and quite frankly more time-efficient to use an app. Apps can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I even use one company's app to inform my decisions about choosing where to take my business. Without a word of exaggeration, if a bank offers a superior piece of technology, I know this means more time is going to be saved during the course of my professional relationship with them. Time is money to me and that company will win every time. Why should the law be any different? The answer is it shouldn't! We have just been slower on the uptake and are not reaping the rewards as other professional service sectors have.
Am I being too hard on my profession? I don't think so. I am passionate about law firms and their plight, and anything that can be remotely considered harsh is coming from a good place and is what I would call 'tough love'. I'd rather call you a dinosaur and see you prosper than not and see you fail.
I am not the only lawyer feeling frustrated and pushing for change; there are many of us. I recently met with fellow solicitor and entrepreneur Mark Needham, founder of http://www.legalproposals.com. Mark says: "We live in the Age of Information. Just like our ancestors experienced the Industrial Revolution brought about through the industrialisation of the economy, we are all experiencing a Digital Revolution based on information computerisation. Law firms are no more immune to this than the horse and cart was immune to the mass production car - Put simply, law firms must adapt and embrace technology or face extinction."
I recently attended The Modern Law conference and was positively encouraged by the number of senior lawyers encouraging the widespread adoption of technology in the legal sector. With Sir Michael Pit, Chairman of the Legal Services Board saying it is a"tough economic outlook for lawyers and barristers" and "legal service providers have to be willing to adapt".
So the moral is: do not be a dinosaur; move with the times; offer your clients better service and, more pertinently, your firm the best chance in a competitive market; embrace technology like a long-lost relative (who you know is going to make you rich or, at the very least, give you the edge over your competitors); and, what is more, enjoy the ride. We are on the edge of very exciting times indeed!