What Lawyers and Law Firms Can Learn From Silicon Valley

There’s no industry that has grown faster or become more prominent in modern society than the technology industry. Companies like Facebook and Apple have grown out of a dorm room or, in the latter case, a garage. They have become some of the biggest multi-national corporations despite their very humble beginnings.

However, their growth stories are different. Each company faces any number of factors that would’ve influenced their growth. These factors can change from industry to industry, but what’s similar is that growth isn’t as simple as getting from point A to point B.

Resources and stories from other companies can help your organization navigate your growth. Still, it can be challenging to find resources on how to achieve growth that actually suits your organization’s specific needs. What may work for other industries- or even for other professionals within the same industry, might not be appropriate.

However, an agile approach could be how you improve your day-to-day activities in order to achieve growth. Agile and agile methodologies have been around for decades and have continued to be utilized and expanded on for today’s organizational needs.

The goal of agile is to prevent you (and your team) from ending the day with the feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything despite putting in a full day of work. We’ll introduce the tech industry shift to agile and how the legal industry can start seeing similar benefits.

Identifying a Need for Change

Growth looks different in the technology industry compared to other sectors, but the main goal of innovation is the same.

For the technology industry (and likely the legal industry as well), projects often involve multiple tasks. These tasks also can quickly become complicated. 

The way these tasks are ordered, the tools used to follow-up, the processes and length of involved work cycles, or even the use of parallelized multi-project teams can all result in complications. These additional sub-tasks then can result in project delays.

With so much potential for delay, organizations face the challenge of keeping projects on-time and on-budget. Projects can have so many different working parts, so task management is very important. 

Getting more done can be a result of developing the ability to prioritize any number of tasks. It’s not about taking on more tasks, but establishing priority and cadence.

So, how can companies address this? They can start by taking a deeper look at the tasks required to complete business processes- which can quickly become overwhelming. What can we do prevent this?

Originally introduced by manufacturers in the automotive industry in 1948, “Lean and Agile” methodologies address task management. These have been adapted to suit modern needs and have even been used within today’s Fortune 500 companies.

Agile allows day-to-day tasks to be more productive processes. By adopting an agile approach, the tech industry now has the ability to build entire digitally-based companies in a matter of months.

While it may require a bit of adaptation for specific needs/processes, but an agile approach does help to address priority, cadence, and efficiency of tasks.

An Agile Approach to the Legal Industry

Issues around productivity are not unique to only the technology industry. The legal industry sees lawyers and law firms facing cases with many tasks/activities attached. For lawyers and law firms, productivity can be a massive influence on growth. Because an agile approach can help navigate daily tasks, applying agile methodologies to your practice is a bold, innovative, and necessary shift.

It can be hard to justify a change, so when should you consider adopting an agile approach for your organization? If:

  • You’re struggling to prioritize tasks/activities;
  • Deciding the correct cadence of tasks is becoming difficult;
  • The speed of handling cases is not ideal; or
  • You’re struggling with any other productivity-related issue, you should consider agile.

Applying agile to your legal work is as easy as making small changes in the way you and your team manage cases. By breaking cases into several stages, incorporating constant collaboration with stakeholders, and maintaining continuous improvement at every stage, you’ll notice a difference.

Benefits of Agile Methodologies

Using agile methodologies provides four main values to organizations;

  1. Specific individuals and interactions can be prioritized;
  2. Services you provide are streamlined;
  3. Collaboration with clients can be valued over the service’s scope negotiations; and
  4. You have the flexibility to respond to ongoing changes instead of having to follow a rigid plan.

With agile, planning is done in shorter and iterative cycles. Priorities can be shifted from iteration to iteration to fully address client and firm needs. This helps firms to increase client satisfaction, retention, and achieve overall organizational growth.

Next Steps

In the technology industry adopting agile methods helped with overall business growth. However, agile is not industry-specific, and is adaptable. Within the legal industry, it can help with case management and with technology, can reduce the time spent on tedious tasks.

Want to learn more about using an agile approach? Check this 2016 article from Harvard Business Review or Legalboard’s resource. These explain more about how agile methodologies are spreading across a broad range of industries, what an agile approach can look like, and the benefits of using an agile approach.

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