Taking a closer look at ‘going digital’: asb law
Enabling a Client-Centric Ethos with Technology
An interview with asb law’s Nick Lakhani.
In a market renowned for tradition rather than innovation, asb law shows that medium sized practices are often the most willing to embrace change. Forging ahead and proving what can be achieved with a clear sense of purpose, client-centric ethos and neoteric strategy – asb law has been ‘going digital’ for some time and is embracing agility in all aspects of its operations.
With two offices in Sussex and Kent, the firm has taken a very fresh approach to re-evaluating its commercial priorities and where it sits in an increasingly crowded and competitive market. It’s perhaps no surprise then that finding ways to stand out is key to realising its ambition – to be one of the most progressive law firms in the world.
Finance Director Nick Lakhani explains: “The legal market is broken. Lots of firms claim to be client-centric but then their behaviours, billing structures and organisational make-up say something quite different. We wanted to challenge conventional legal thinking and find innovative ways to give our clients the best the market has to offer. To do that we’ve worked hard to align the way we work and how we make clients feel with our ambitions and strategy.”
As part of its re-imagined and client-focused strategy, asb law has made some seismic organisational changes. The decision to stop billable hours and fee earners’ targets in favour of a long-term view of client relationships and department achievements, is perhaps one of the most fundamental changes.
”We’ve stopped thinking about what we’re selling and started thinking about what clients want and expect.”
Nick adds: “If you’re billing clients by the hour you’re not client centric. The longer the law firm spends on a transaction the more they get paid and that is not what the client wants. To make ourselves client-orientated we have changed our billing structure and also entered into some interesting collaborations with our peers as a way to create more compelling value propositions for clients and to buy-in additional resource and capability as our client’s needs and budgets dictate. We’ve stopped thinking about what we’re selling and started thinking about what clients want and expect.”
Collaboration and agility are integral to asb law bringing this ethos to life and the firm has already invested heavily in these areas. Since 2014, asb law has reduced its property footprint by 30% while simultaneously increasing its head count thanks to agile working. Going digital has been a key enabler of these changes.
Nick says: “For us, technology is an enabler of change, particularly in relation to agility. DMC Canotec’s uniFLOW solution makes up an important part of this picture as you can be anywhere in our eco-system and use any printer. It has helped us to push our agile agenda and encourage employees to move around and between our offices as they see fit. The real benefit of uniFLOW is that it has made printing a deliberate action as users have to go to the printer to print their documents. It’s reduced the tendency to hit print when documents aren’t really needed, which in turn reduces paper waste and heightens our approach to client confidentiality too.
”The collective benefit of all these systems has allowed us to design inefficiency out of our practices in order to build long-term, quality client relationships.”
“In addition to uniFLOW, we have also invested in a new practice management system based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM called Peppermint – a decision that puts the client at the heart of our approach and allows us to develop workflows to automate manual and often laborious processes. We’ve also purchased project management software to improve the client experience and make our internal collaboration and client-communication timelier and more transparent. The collective benefit of all these systems has allowed us to design inefficiency out of our practices in order to build long-term, quality client relationships.”
asb law can attribute several new client wins and plaudits from its peers to the wide-ranging changes it has implemented to its systems, culture and working practices, including securing a place on BT’s legal panel, winning an award at the FT Innovative Lawyer Awards 2018 for Innovation in the business of law: New business and service delivery models and Managing Partner, Andrew Clinton is ranked in the Top 10 Legal Innovators in the associated FT Innovative Lawyers Europe Report 2018. The firm’s decision to do things differently, is paying off.
Nick continues: “This sector isn’t known for innovation so there aren’t many firms to look to follow their lead. We’ve chosen to forge our own path and, so far, it is proving attractive to our target client base. Much of the success we’ve enjoyed is directly linked to the strength of our strategy and culture. Yes, we have invested heavily in technology, but the act of ‘going digital’ requires a strong culture and one that reflects our wider goals and aims. If your strategy is being client-centric like ours, then the whole operating model, spanning technology, process, people and capability must follow suit. For us, change is a process rather than a destination and we are committed to continual evolution, innovation and improvement.”
asb law’s organisational and digital transformation began five years ago and thanks to a clear vision and commitment to change, from the small to the seismic, it has become a firm associated with continual evolution. With its highly professional and consistent operating model – The asb way – the firm is challenging out-dated stereotypes of legal services providers and giving its clients compelling reasons to instruct them. asb law is a beacon of change in an otherwise hesitant sector.
“Collaborating with DMC Canotec gave us the expertise and insight, as well as the technology platforms and capability we needed to bring our vision to life. Legal services have to innovate and ‘going digital’ is an integral part of that journey.”
Nick concludes: “To carry on doing things the same way they’ve always been done in our sector is foolhardy. For me, the need for organisational transformation presents an opportunity for real innovation in the delivery of modern and relevant legal services and digital solutions are a powerful enabler of that. On a personal level, going digital has provided an opportunity to really show that Finance Directors can be genuine business advisors and agents of change, rather than a back-office function managing the numbers.
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