Summary VQ Forum 2011

VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum is an annual conference covering topics of interest for leadership, strategy, innovation and technology for the legal and professional services market. VQ Forum is arranged by VQ, with the aim to chose speakers and topics that cover the whole spectra of our business focus, from knowledge management and business development to IT. The programme therefore generally has a strong focus on the changing legal landscape, how the dynamics of legal services will change in the future, how to leverage the internal knowledge and what strategies or technologies will improve service delivery.

This year, we were proud to be able to present Professor Richard Susskind as key note speaker, who gave his predictions on the future of legal services.

Richard Susskind’s predictions were then followed by a distinguished panel of speakers, with Anne Ramberg, Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Stefan Erhag, Executive Partner at Delphi, Joakim Edoff, Executive Partner at Setterwalls and Björn Kristiansson, Partner at Hannes Snellman, providing their views from a Swedish perspective. The discussions were rather heated from time to time, or as described by Project Counsel “something of a public clash between two ideas: the need for law firms to change versus the more traditional approach.”

Richard Susskind on the changing legal profession
Professor Richard Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent adviser, a frequent speaker on the future of the legal profession and the author of numerous books, most recently “The Future of Law” and “The End of Lawyers?” Susskind claims that the future for lawyers could be either prosperous or disatrous. He predicts that lawyers who are unwilling to change will struggle to survive, but that lawyers who respond to the changes and embrace technology and new ways of providing legal services will find opportunities for new and exciting lines of business.

At VQ Forum Susskind emphasised the “more for less-challenge” when clients have more legal issues to handle, but less in-house resources and less budget to spend on external advisers. Law firms can meet this challenge with two different strategies. The first is the efficiency strategy, where focus is on reducing costs of routine legal work and generally to make the legal service more automated along the line from bespoke to standardized, systematized, packaged and commoditized, as well as by using new ways of sourcing the legal work by oursourcing, off-shoring, sub-contracting or combined multi-sourcing ways. The second strategy is the collaboration strategy, where law firms ask clients to share the costs of legal services, by online closed communities for collaboration, by online legal services, automated drafting and electronical legal marketplaces.

Susskind also clarified the different approaches to legal service that clients and law firms have by the “fence on the cliff and the ambulance-illustration”. Clients want legal risk management, not legal problem solving, they want dispute avoidance, not dispute resolutions, i.e. clients want a “fence on the top of the cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom”. Unfortunately however, most law firms have focused on making the ambulance better and faster, and not focused on providing fences.

Susskind emphasised that law firms have to change their structure and to rethink their business completely from pricing differently to working differently. The golden age of profitability for law firms have passed. Leaders who are innovative will still be prosperous, but followers and late adapters will be dragged down to cost competing and struggle for survival.

Articles from VQ Forum

Please find more information about Richard Susskind’s predictions, the panel discussion and more from VQ Forum in these articles:

KM’s role in new business models
Chris Bull, partner at Edge international, provided examples of some emerging business models on the legal market and presented his views on the importance of knowledge management to support such new business models. According to Chris, knowledge management and the important role for the legal business could better be described by naming it knowledge entrepreneurship or legal product development. KM has stopped being something “nice to have” for law firms and have turned into a “must have”. Law firms that are not sucessful with their knowledge management will fail on the changed marketplace.

This topic was followed by Martin Salomon at Regi, who presented the research from Sweden’s largest survey among buyers of business law services, Law Firm of the Year (Sw. “Årets Advokatbyrå”) and provided insights on the importance of strategic KM work to meet the demands from clients and how they believe law firms should develop the business in order to be a better partner. It was quite clear to all that clients ask for more proactivity and regular follow-ups and that they favour firms that are more innovative in both pricing and how services are provided.

Later on the founders of VQ, Ann Björk and Helena Hallgarn, elaborated this topic with some examples of law firms that have taken the opportunity for knowledge management to deliver genuinely business critical contributions and to gain more business and closer client relationships. Please see the presentation slides for more details. VQ also introduced the concept of the digital associate as an analysis of which parts of the legal business that could be replaced or improved by the use of technology and processes. Please read more about this topic in the VQ article The Digital Associate of Law Firms and the Benefits for In-House Counsel, published inInternational In-House Counsel Journal, October 2011.

Law firms and social media, innovation and business intelligence
Rob Ameerun presented the use of social media for law firms in a very appreciated way, with tips on how law firms could benefit by using social media and examples of the effective use in legal business, such as the knowledge pages of Dirkzwager law firm. Rob Ameerun’s presentation can be found here.

Mikael Arborelius then gave insights on how the changing market makes innovation necessary, but how the change makes innovation difficult. To handle the complexity of change you have to know, visualise and be agile by using simple tools dedicated for the task and to measure along the way to constantly improve. Björn Immerstrand then continued the innovation aspects and gave a presentation on business intelligence and how understanding business data operatively can drive change and improve business.

Message from VQ Forum
The message that was most clear from this day at the VQ Forum was that the legal market is changing and how this should be regarded as an opportunity, not something to resist. Grasp the opportunity! Be innovative and prosperous by embracing change, new technologies and new ways of providing legal services. Be a leader not a follower!

For more pictures from VQ Forum, please see Facebook VQ: Pictures from VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum 2011