12th July 2016

Talent, leadership and technology are the three pillars of innovation in law firms

Finding and developing the right talent, enabling productivity through the intelligent use of technology and providing strong leadership were the key factors for innovation identified by the panel of celebrated leaders of trailblazing legal services firms.6S3A0569

The Trailblazers Conference, hosted by CTS Technology Specialists, celebrated innovation in legal services delivery. The speakers, all of whom had successfully disrupted the traditional legal services model, outlined their individual approaches to driving innovation and success in their firms.

Joy Kingsley, Senior Partner at JMW; Ed Fletcher, Chief Executive of Fletchers Solicitors; Richard Hodkinson, Chief Technology Officer at DWF; and Paul Hinchliffe, Managing Director at Bott & Co, shared the secrets of their success through a series of interviews.

Each Trailblazer shared their individual experience but all four leaders shared the opinion that their firms recruit, develop and retain the best talent, deliver strong leadership in tandem with effective communication and embrace technology to promote profitability and agility.

Panel Discussion

Since becoming Chief Executive of Fletchers, Ed Fletcher has broken down the conventions of the standard law firm and leader; the organisation has tripled in size, been listed in the London Stock Exchange ‘1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’, and achieved the Investors in People (IIP) Gold Award. Ed described the approach taken at Fletchers and the importance of having strong values and open communication within the organisation, to drive retention and the sharing of ideas.

Fletchers have a clear strategic focus on attracting the best staff to the region and have found social media to be an invaluable tool. “By recruiting candidates based on our company values, we ensure we get the very best people who will deliver the best service to our customers” commented Ed.

Ed is extremely proud of the talent that has been attracted to Fletchers’ vision and values but even prouder of talent that has been grown within the Fletchers’ Academy; a comprehensive programme for training and development.  Employee engagement and communication has been vital as the organisation has grown, and communication has remained at the heart of Ed’s vision as Chief Executive. The company uses a hosted infrastructure solution to enable flexible and agile working which helps the firm attract talent to the business while greatly enhancing customer service delivery.

Joy Kingsley is Senior Partner at JMW. Joy presided over the impressive growth of Pannone LLP and has helped achieve the unprecedented increase of revenue at JMW from £10.2 million to £22.5 million in the 5 years since she joined the firm.

Joy spoke of the need for leaders to focus on retaining quality staff and also to continuously promote innovation to drive success. The management team at JMW actively encourages ideas to be shared by everyone in the business. When it comes to innovation Joy said “There’s not one type or size or structure of firm which is going to be successful in future – there is plenty of opportunity for firms to innovate and to steal a niche”.

Richard Hodkinson, CTO of Top 20 legal business DWF, has 20 years of board-level experience in acquisitive, energetic law firms. Hodkinson is passionate about the use of technology as a foundation for innovation, and as a result DWF has successfully used technology as a differentiator, especially with regards to attracting new clients and retaining talent.

Richard spoke of the changes that had taken place in the legal market, such as the drive for packaged pricing, and the need for IT departments to service both their internal and external customers. The need for IT teams to focus on development and added value activities while outsourcing areas such as infrastructure to the cloud, was a key theme of Richard’s conversation. “IT leaders are starting to realise that you can increase profits without the need for additional investment by working smarter rather than harder.”  In terms of future opportunity Richard told delegates, “There is huge potential and opportunity (in the market), it just takes lateral thinking”.

Paul Hinchliffe, Managing Director at Bott & Co, has led operational development at the firm, overseeing the practice’s substantial investment in leading-edge IT systems and focus on quality standards. Paul shared the strategy that led them to become the most experienced and trusted authority on flight delay compensation rights in the UK. The firm has used automation to drive productivity in their high volume business. To support this level of technology use, the roles within the Bott & Co team differ from those of a traditional firm, with more members of the team focussed on technology and marketing.  Finding the right skill sets to support the business can be a challenge, and to support this Bott & Co have developed the Bott & Co Academy.  “We have an internal training program to assist in the development of our own talent. Our excellent record of staff retention is a great source of pride across the whole firm”.  Paul said.

The firm’s reliance on technology means that a robust system with guaranteed uptime is crucial in being able to deliver the level of service their clients expect, and that productivity levels are constantly monitored for improvements. When advising delegates of how to approach the future and re-enforcing the need for strong leadership, Paul recommended that they should “Find a niche an inch wide and a mile deep”.

The panel discussed key issues for the future, including the impact of Brexit on the legal sector, the emergence of AI, and the need to embrace technology to create an adaptable and flexible business model.

Following the conference Nigel Wright, Founder and Managing Director of CTS, summarised the event by saying “We are all only too aware that the legal services market is changing quickly and that the innovative, flexible and adaptable firms are rising to the top. Our conference successfully highlighted some of the key themes, differentiators and models which are driving success in legal services and also how vital it is that firms embrace technology as a key enabler to success”.


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