“Future legal employment will be agile, rewarding the self-starter who builds a reputation for value, effectiveness and foresight…”
– Jordan Furlong
Are you wondering how to bring the most value to your clients and your practice with minimal input? It is possible, but it requires a specific mindset and practices guided by agile principles.
These principles, laid out below, are widely embraced by many successful companies (e.g. Toyota, Salesforce, Google, Facebook, and Twitter just to name a few). However, Agile can also be successfully applied in the legal industry.
But why should you apply Agile in the first place?
7 Principles to rule them all
Your goal, as well as that of any law firm, is to be the go-to firm for the most sophisticated clients. In your view, the value you give your clients is indispensable and your services can’t be easily replaced by anything else on the market.
Even if your clients agree 100% with you now, there’s no guarantee this will always be the case. In other words, “what got you here today will not get you there tomorrow.”
However, Agile principles are all about impressing clients and embracing change. As such, Agile is a framework and a state of mind to help you stay on top of any given market conditions.
Read on, and see how these 7 principles will help you outperform your competitors:
#1 Early and continuous delivery of valuable service
Fast service and short turnaround time are things clients always demand of you. In their view, ideally, you should be solving their today’s problems yesterday.
This is also the first core principle you should introduce to your practice. Carve this simple rule in the very DNA of your law firm, and make it the focal point around which you create solutions for your clients.
It’s easy to realize how this approach favors clients (that’s the whole point, impressing your clients by making yourself useful, even invaluable). However, it’s also clear how this approach contrasts with the traditional billable hour model.
Every client loves fast delivery. If you manage to provide it, your firm will be their go-to adviser. That advantage will add up in the long-run.
#2 Embrace changing requirements
If you want to maintain the speed of the processes in your law firm, you have to adapt to the changing requirements of your clients and the market as a whole. But, what’s the benefit?
If you manage to train yourself, your employees, and instill a culture of change in your law firm, you’re setting yourself up for long term success. Rapid response to changes (technological, customer, etc.) is the only way to stay competitive and to keep clients satisfied.
#3 Co-workers must work together on a daily basis
IT companies generally use parallel / paired programming for a reason. Programmers write the code in such a way as to make it readable to anyone from the development team. Hence, any team member can pick up the work and fill in any gaps very quickly.
Applying this principle by working daily with your colleagues and sharing knowledge will make your legal team stronger and less dependent on any individual. Nowadays, the best functioning teams rely on the whole much more than any one “rock-star” in the group.
Keeping everybody in the loop ensures results will be delivered on schedule even if a key team member is unavailable. Agile empowers every individual, it ultimately sets the whole team up for success, no matter what may go wrong.
#4 Build projects around motivated people
As a legal manager, you need to lead your co-workers. However, you also need to provide some autonomy if you wish to motivate them to grow. Guide them, assist them, but make sure you give enough room for their own initiative.
Key to achieving this is to give your employees the resources they need to achieve results (be it knowledge, tools, software infrastructure, contacts, etc.), provide some general framework, and finally, set goals for them. Then, watch how the team performs.
“Agile teams have to abandon bad corporate habits (…) and adopt a more mature and nuanced approach to their relationships with their own talent…”
– Jordan Furlong
#5 Face-to-face — the most effective way to communicate
With all the technology involved in the modern workplace, this is still the most effective and the fastest way to pass on information within a team. This method increases the chances of reaching consensus and decisions faster. It also eliminates the time spent on emailing, making it easier for your co-workers to pitch their ideas or just share feedback.
That being said, you should still balance electronic and in-person communicating, and convene with the team only when it is productive to do so (e.g. to set a strategic course for a matter, brainstorm possible solutions, etc.).
#6 Simplicity is essential
The most important question you should ask yourself will always be: “is there a more simple way to get this done?” Challenging yourself and your team will get you to simpler solutions and make your team more efficient.
Another aspect of simplicity which can improve your legal practice is waste reduction. The more you get rid of unnecessary activities (tasks, habits, etc.), the more organized your firm and practice will be. Saving time by eliminating excessive wastes and will surely make your law firm more profitable.
#7 Self-organizing team
All agile principles are connected to each other. Giving support to your co-workers will boost their motivation. It will also make people more organized and concentrated when it comes to solving problems.
According to agile methodology, the best results emerge from self-organized groups of people because they know each others strengths and disadvantages. That means they know how to use them best.
Anything to add?