What’s Your Plan?

  • August 01, 2016
  • By David J. Bilinsky

Time to get a little strategic

And I'm hanging on best as I can
Cause I know this whole crazy ride's in your hands

It's your plan...

- Music, Lyrics and recorded by: Dustin Lynch.

David BilinskyThere has been a quiet change in how law has been practised in the last little while. The biggest firms have taken a lesson from the major accounting firms and structured their business processes to adopt formal business planning. Rather than being an aggregation of lawyers within a larger cost-sharing structure, the revamped organizations have formal goals that go far beyond just billing and client acquisition targets.

Law firms now make business moves strategically; they look for markets that they can not only enter but where they can create a sizable presence and apply their specialized expertise. Technology is being adopted not just for back-office systems; rather cutting-edge technology such as Artificial or Augmented Intelligence (AI) is being adopted to assist lawyers in their deepest work. For example, The Impact of Technology, a report by LegalFutures of the UK, states:

“There is little doubt that the use of legal AI is on the rise among large and growing law firms. Among other developments, global law firm Dentons has invested in the IBM Watson-based start-up ROSS Intelligence; Riverview Law has partnered with Liverpool University to benefit from its computing department’s AI expertise and bought a US knowledge automation business, CliXLEX; and Clifford Chance is reportedly evaluating a range of AI technologies.”

Of course it isn’t just lawyers and law firms that are making strategic moves. Indeed, BC is front and centre in the application of technology to dispute resolution:

Shannon Salter, Chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”), based in Victoria, said that when it opens... the CRT will be “the first online tribunal in Canada and one of the first in the world.” The CRT will deal with small claims and what Canadians call “strata disputes” – disputes over the common parts in shared blocks of flats.

The front-end of the CRT is a “Solution Explorer,” described as “the tool that will deliver expert justice and dispute resolution guidance” directly to the public. PwC is building both the Explorer and the CRT dispute resolution software. Since the CRT’s website was launched last year, it has generated close to 17,000 hits and hundreds of email queries.

The CRT is an example of governments looking to strategically use technology to provide greater access to justice in new and efficient ways.

This is an appropriate time for all firms to be asking themselves: where are we going? What is our approach to the market? Where do we see ourselves in five years? Are there new ways that we could be providing services? Have we captured specialized expertise that we can now apply to the market in ways that our competition has not? How can we apply business planning to ensure the future of our lawyers and law firms?

According to Geoff Wild, the pioneering solicitor who is director of governance and law at Kent County Council:

“... lawyers must wake up to the fact that they need to rapidly become digital businesses that happen to do law, rather than legal businesses that use technology,” or “they will very soon face extinction.”

For firms of all sizes this whole crazy ride is in your hands: what’s your plan?

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The views expressed herein are strictly those of David Bilinsky and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members. 

David J. Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Society of British Columbia.
Email: daveb@lsbc.org
Blog: thoughtfullaw.com