Last week we sponsored The Lawyer Business Leadership Summit in the City of London and over 2 days I participated, chaired and observed discussions about the future of the Legal industry.
I spoke at length to Managing Partners, COO’s, CTO’s Directors of Strategy and Innovation from some of the largest Law Firms in the world. What I came away with is further evidence to my previous blogs that the sector is in rapid flux. What is more fascinating is the amount of factors a managing partner has to grasp to create a meaningful medium term strategy for their firm.
Here is an insight into one facet the sector is grappling with.
Office Space…Open Plan, cubicle, coffee lounge or home office?
So Google has a slide in its head quarters…is that relevant to lawyers? How many more times will I have to listen to West Coast US tech firms extolling the virtues of funky playpens because Generation Z are now joining the workforce.
Tech firms are left brain places full of techies writing software. Tech firms build their businesses on clients trusting code and logic to process tasks. They are all about replicating human functionality without the need to deal with human emotion….robots nor techies for that matter are well known for their empathy and communication skills.
Law Firms on the other hand are right brain places. They build their businesses on the clients trusting in them to sort out complex emotional problems. They are all about human emotion, relationships, integrity. Insight rather than information.
If one is right brain and the other left brain should their workplaces have anything in common at all?
If I came away with anything from the conversations I had with more than 10 managing partners of top 50 firms is that human relationships remain the foundation of the client firm dynamic. This is no better demonstrated by the fact that business follows lateral team hires.
A firms work space needs to be one that creates an environment that forges, nurtures and develops relationships. I think the future work space will move towards a campus based approach mimicking that of a university with different zones being used dependent on the function being performed.
So a lawyer might drop into the canteen coffee zone for a breakfast project team huddle, moving on to a meeting room suite for client presentation or video conference, following that an auditorium briefing on a new development in legislation or a talk from an industry expert, then a drop in to the library to get some thinking and stand alone emails done and following that a project group meeting in a collaborative or creative zone and finally a client dinner in an entertainment zone.
At any point the lawyer would be supported by a range of self service or human support services giving instant access to video and voice conference calls, meeting room booking, ground and travel management, IT or Facilities help desk or business concierge. All services accessible seamlessly by phone, instant message, kiosk or app.
This campus facility might also be available to customers to educate or work on collaborative projects.
This approach would un-tether the fee earner from the desk top and deliver a true agile work space based on functions important to customer engagement rather than one designed around onsite business functions which would happen in regional, near shore or even giga economy centres.
I think the successful firm of the future will be defined by its brand not its lawyers. It will be a firm that provides an unrivalled environment for creative, collaborative problem solving not just a desk for a fee earners.