How can your firm address a technology skills gap in the coming decade? And, how can you ensure you build a future-ready firm that attracts top talent? Achieving both will require:
- Embracing innovation and fostering a culture that rewards continual learning;
- Building a technology-enabled workplace that helps you attract and retain top talent; and
- Investing in user-friendly digital tools to help address the skills gap while also automating routine, high-volume tasks.
These objectives require systemic change in how your firm handles its people, processes, and technology. However, with the right, easy-to-use technology tools and digital learning strategies, your firm can harness the full potential of every employee.
Embrace innovation and create a culture that rewards continual learning
A growing number of lawyers recognize that competent client representation and a successful legal practice requires an integrated ecosystem with technologies that connect lawyers to matters 24/7 and in every phase of the case life cycle.
In one 2020 survey, 67% of law firms were already investing in new technology to support firm operations and client work, with 60% planning to increase their technology investment over the next three years to meet client demands. In another 2020 survey, 84% of law firms say the use of legal technology results in increased efficiency, with 77% of firms saying they plan to increase their use of legal technology.
For a long time, partners nearing retirement have been happy with the status quo, preferring that the firm wait until they retire before changing its business model. However, after dealing with the effects of the pandemic, we see even this long-standing resistance start to fold. A recent 2021 legal market report found that 84% of law firm partners now expect their firms to increase investments in technology.
Technology investments will help firms become more collaborative and data-driven, as leaders identify more ways to create value for clients in the modern era. But while technology is an enabler, the firm’s people and culture will always be the primary drivers of success.
Closing the skills gap will mean building a culture that values perpetual learning and rewards continual skills growth. Start a dialogue with employees about the importance of training for relevant skills. Find ways to enhance education for various learning styles, such as peer-to-peer training or massive open online courses (MOOCs). Offering learning opportunities that meet your clients’ needs while also matching the goals and interests of legal professionals will help your firm attract and retain a future-ready workforce.
Bridging the gap: Identify personnel challenges
In 2018, IBM reported that in the following three years, more than 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies might need to be retrained and re-skilled as a result of intelligent/AI-enabled automation. It’s now three years later, and we can count a significant number of lawyers and legal professionals among those affected.
Digital natives (including Millennials and Gen Z), often possess diverse digital capabilities already. They’ve developed these skills by using technology to solve problems every day. By 2030, digital natives will account for 75% of the global workforce. Embracing technology is so vital to tech-native generations that 71% say it influences whether they take a job at a company.
And, this skills gap has created intense competition for tech-savvy talent. The Society for HR Management reports,
“Corporations now compete globally for increasingly scarce technical and professional skills. Some 75% of respondents rate workforce capability as ‘urgent’ or ‘important.’ However, only 15% believe they are ready to address it.”
Electronic billing is a good example of how staff roles must evolve as technology alters the legal landscape. The skills for shepherding invoices through e-billing vary significantly from those needed to create an invoice in Microsoft Word, mail paper invoices, and process paper checks.
Think about it: Are your billing specialists prepared not just to use your billing software but also to optimize your firm’s electronic billing and payment processes? The number of firms that answer no to that question is startling.
Almost no position has been left unaltered. AI and automation will completely take over many daily tasks, and the work that remains will require intelligent and empathic decision-making skills and deep legal industry insight. Firms will need to assess the skill levels of their current employees and identify where investments in training and educating existing staff will close gaps and where bringing
in new talent is more appropriate
Building a technology-enabled law firm: Identify process and technology challenges
Ironically, choosing easily operated, modern technology tools will help you address the digital skills gap. The time it takes to close a skills gap through traditional training has increased more than 10 times in recent years, jumping from three days to 36 days. Opting for technology solutions with user-friendly interfaces helps you shrink or eliminate training time. High user-friendliness ensures even the least digitally savvy of workers can start generating benefits from using technology right away. Conversely, if using a system is too complex or burdensome, even digital natives will shun it and start operating outside your intended infrastructure.
To that end, can your employees work collaboratively online with each other and with clients? Ensure lawyers and staff have easy and secure access to email, chat, video conferencing, cloud collaboration software, and other technologies that now make it possible to perform almost any office job remotely.
Also, take a holistic view of your firm’s processes. Look for repetitive, high-volume activities that often cause unnecessary hassle and delays. Automating those tasks does more than speed processes; it also helps you break down information silos, making data more accessible firmwide and supporting legal professionals in delivering more efficient and effective services.
You can coordinate your efforts by using a legal practice management solution, such as AbacusLaw, that helps lawyers and staff prioritize and report on all their matters while also updating clients through secure cloud portals. Each lawyer can leverage dashboards to track cases, billing, and matter progress and assess informative data points captured about their clients.
Take big steps to close the skills gap
Factors influencing this workforce paradigm shift include the soaring use of cloud-based infrastructure that puts operational data and vital applications into a virtual workspace. Clients also demand efficient and effective legal services that law firms increasingly rely on helpful technology to deliver. And, proving the point that this will only increase with time, 39 U.S. states expressly require lawyers to meet the duty of technology competence.
Firms that address the technology and digital skills gaps now will benefit and increase profitability sooner. Focus on embracing innovation, building a digital-first culture and recruiting tech-savvy talent to take significant steps to close the technology skills gap and set your firm on a future-forward path. Choosing user-friendly digital tools that require less technical skills to use effectively can shave weeks off training times. Learn more about strengthening your law firm’s technology infrastructure and digital skillsets with AbacusNext.