It is no news that businesses in the legal industry, especially those with a long-established history, will most likely face a need to adapt their business focus and processes to today’s continually changing economic and legal environment within the next few years. As many new business models have emerged over the past years, especially involving legal tech, some existing services have already become obsolete. Among the main drivers of these developments are disruptive technologies, introduced by small innovative players with ambitious visions. Although the legal industry’s digitization has still not caught up to the speed and progress of other industries, one can soon expect rapid change in how legal services are provided, who has access to justice and which areas of legal practice maintain enough substance to be “safe” from the threat of replacement by legal tech. To ensure durability and growth in the market environment in the future, the legal industry’s small and medium businesses in particular must now define a clear strategy for working with – rather than against – digitization and business transformation in the future.
But where to start? To give an indicator of where to begin when developing a digital transformation strategy, here are a number of questions that any business should be able to answer within the next years:
Market Position and Ecosystem
What is the purpose of the business in the digital age and what role will it play as a result? Which changes will the digital transformation bring about for the business and how will these changes impact the market environment? What adaptations need to be made to current strategies, products, services, and business processes such that the business can leverage these changes in the ecosystem?
People, Values and Vision
How can a long-term vision and strategy for the digital transformation of the business be formulated? How can this vision be combined with and rooted within the business’ existing value system? How can this new vision and strategy be communicated through change management and storytelling so that all employees understand the new direction and internalize the opportunities that digitization offers for them individually and for the company as a whole? How can all employees be taken on board on this journey of change with regard to thought patterns, work modes, existing frameworks, and business culture? How can anxieties connected to these changes be minimized and replaced with excitement and anticipation? How can credibility of these new values be created and preserved by exemplifying them and integrating them into the leadership team’s own behavior?
Technology and Processes
What role does technology play in the newly defined strategy and how can it be systematically used to update and unify the business’ IT infrastructure? How can existing business models and analog processes be digitized while at the same time creating new business models that fully satisfy clients’ needs in the future and future clients’ needs in line with behavioral and technological change? Where in the value chain will value creation happen in the future and how can the customer experience be optimized through digital offers?
How can the most promising areas of digitization be identified, and how can objectives and activities for these be defined and sequenced in a way that prioritizes the most promising initiatives, such that resultant earnings can be invested in the next initiatives on the roadmap? How can lighthouse projects be used as pilots to receive early support through high incentives and low risk? Which competences are essential in a launch team that sets up the digital transformation teams and coordinates communication with all departments to implement digital workflows? How can progress and success be measured through key performance indicators (KPIs) and responsibilities created for them? How can financing of the investments in the required IT infrastructure and human resources be ensured?
What competences are necessary in the long term and how can they be gathered and fostered sustainably through recruiting and training of existing employees? How can the business become and stay attractive for digital talents? How can the employees’ theoretical competences be enhanced while practically preparing them for change through hands-on training? How can agile workflows be implemented that enable fast decision-making, risk tolerance and the ability to learn from mistakes? How can the digital transformation be rolled out across the whole firm in a sustainable and holistic manner after pilot projects have been successfully implemented?
Of course, these are substantial questions that take a lot of time and effort to answer. These questions can assist as a step-by-step guide for building a sound digital transformation strategy to properly prepare for the imminent disruption that the legal industry faces. Looking on the bright side, the digital transformation can create numerous opportunities for any business in the legal industry, and thinking outside of the traditional box will likely help to identify them. As such, realists and enthusiasts who start thinking ahead of time about their role and business model in the legal industry of the future will have a substantial advantage over those who leave it to chance.