Law firms often don’t utilize their non-attorney staff to their fullest extent, according to a recently released survey by ALM Legal Intelligence. However, some firms have become increasingly open to pursuing non-traditional means of tapping into the skills and knowledge of their support staff. From finance and accounting, to marketing, to IT; non-attorney staff have begun to collaborate more and more with attorneys to improve responsiveness to clients, conduct research, and support business development.
While the survey does not provide hard data on outcomes, it does paint a picture of law firms increasing their competitiveness by including support staff in non-traditional areas and increasing communication between individuals from different departments within firms. More and more law firms have started reaping the benefits of this interconnectedness between attorneys and other staff.
Some highlights from the survey:
- “Finance and accounting staff… aid partners in the strategizing and structuring of alternative fee arrangements.” Pairing with lawyers has also allowed some firms to optimize collections.
- “Respondents believe attorneys are more open than ever to new and creative ideas for business development.” Firms may even benefit from encouraging marketing teams to work directly with IT in discovering problems from client feedback and implementing solutions.
- “Librarians’ roles are shifting from hands-on legal researchers to trainers.” This indicates that many attorneys are taking a more active role in research, which allows information professionals to focus more on “competitive intelligence and market research to support business development.”
It would be interesting to see data on how these changes have increased profitability and efficiency within law firms and fit into the legal industry’s budding interest in knowledge management. Technology has accelerated the normal rate of competitive advancement and change within law firms, and this will certainly be a topic to keep an eye on.