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Standardisation - the newest custom for law firms.
Is standardisation a fad or the future? If standardisation is the future, does it provide the avenue for innovation and competitive distinction?
In an industry where for many years customisation of systems has been considered the only effective means to handle the complex inner-workings of law firms, it may come as a surprise to some that standardisation has made a revival. So, how can standardisation benefit your law firm?
Put simply, standardisation can provide benefits in four main areas – efficiency, cost, compatibility and agility.
Highly-customised systems can prove time consuming to operate due to the sheer complexity created. Standardise, and provide the business with a range of standardised options (pricing, billing, client reports and portals for legal information), and law firms will become more efficient, expend less of their valuable efforts managing systems and provide capacity to deliver higher-value initiatives to clients.
Highly-customised systems are expensive to maintain. Standardising – and thereby streamlining – enables client services and their requirements to be delivered at a lower price, and with lower operating costs.
Highly-customised systems often prevent information from being shared within and between networks. Standardisation for compatibility (or interoperability) produces better value for clients and enlarges the network of opportunities.
Highly-customised systems, perhaps counterintuitively, can restrict agility. Opportunities that may arise from implementing new and innovative systems rapidly are hindered by the necessity to unravel and re-apply high levels of customisation. Standardising reduces the effort involved in implementing such systems and allows for full benefits of the opportunity to be realised.
It is understandable that law firms might hesitate at the thought of implementing standardisation when customisation has been so significant, and feels so familiar. Law firms may even question their ability to remain competitive should they make the shift to standardise. It is important to note that standardisation will not eliminate access to system options, but will rather, rationalise the flexibility offered to clients reducing the associated unrecoverable cost.
Perhaps the most important new consideration is knowing where to focus time and resources when systems and processes become standardised. To remain relevant and provide the value in services clients are seeking, law firms need to focus their efforts on innovation leading to competitive distinction, helping to separate them from other service providers. Law firms can no longer afford to offer customisation with services as the foundation of their competitive potential.
Amanda Harriss, Partner and Abigail Jones, Marketing