The future is SmartLaw

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What is SmartLaw?

It’s no longer news that the business of law is changing. Business structures, billing models, and even client expectations are very different than they were just a few short years ago.

The way firms compete and who they compete with; the staff they employ, or choose to outsource, and where in the world they’re located; and the importance of business analytics and big data are all relatively new concerns in law.

No matter where your firm is at now, SmartLaw is about mastering the fundamentals to make sure you stay competitive in the future.

Find out more about SmartLaw

Alan Lepofsky of Constellation Research speaks to Stuart Barr, CSO at HighQ, and Ryan McClead, Business Transformation and Innovation Architect at HighQ, about SmartLaw and digital transformation in law firms.

What makes a smart law firm?

SmartLaw is focused on three keys to a law firm’s success: their clients, their culture, and their intelligent use of technology.



Multi-point client relationships require intelligent technology and a supportive and open culture.

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A vision-driven culture focused on your clients’ needs and with the appropriate technology to exceed them.

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Intelligent use of technology directly supports your inclusive and client focused culture.

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Are you SmartLaw?

How do you measure up? Take the quiz to find out your SmartLaw score.

Get your SmartLaw firm name and compare your SmartLaw grades to similar firms!

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Ebook: Expert insights for the future of law

We asked 15 SmartLaw experts from across the legal industry:

“What do you believe lawyers and law firms need to do to prepare for the future of legal services?”

From design thinking to modernising service delivery; understanding clients’ needs and giving added value; and becoming adaptive, flexible and mobile, the experts’ advice can be applied to any firm.

Download the SmartLaw ebook

Stay on top of SmartLaw

This is just the start of the SmartLaw story.

What does SmartLaw mean to you?



We’re just starting this discussion. We’re relying on you to carry it on.

What do you believe lawyers and law firms need to do to prepare for the future of legal services?

Join in the conversation in the comments below and share your thoughts on Twitter using #SmartLaw.

Responses to "SmartLaw"

Ron Friedmann on April 14th, 2016 at 1:32am said:

Great idea and I look forward to the insights that emerge here. I would add a fourth leg to the three you propose: Process. In the spirt of keeping it simple, I mean process to include legal project management, knowledge management, and process improvement. Tech is fine, but without a good process, it just makes doing the wrong things faster. :)

Ryan McClead on April 14th, 2016 at 2:51pm said:

Thanks Ron! Would like to know more about your thoughts around the Process leg. We'd love to have you write a post, either here or on Prism Legal and we'll link back. Thanks!

Susan Hackett on April 18th, 2016 at 11:11pm said:

Hey, Ryan: great post and I love the use of "smart" over "big" or "new" or "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" law. When I started my practice in 2011, I think I must have been channeling you, since I trademarked my service mark as "advancing a smarter legal profession." Most lawyers are plenty intelligent, and many work in highly sophisticated practices, but that's no guarantee that they'll work smart. So here's my bit to add to the conversation: it seems to me that many lawyers are approaching the SmartLaw revolution by jiggling a bit of this and adding a bit of that to dress up their practices, rather than truly re-thinking and then re-engineering themselves. Until lawyers focus more time and attention on that which is their highest use (rather than trying to hoard work that involves a lot of what it is that is now a lower use) of their time, they won't be able to leverage their practice – their clients, culture and technology – to create a more sustainable and valuable path forward. SmartLaw has got to be about more than re-making practice - it has to be about re-making lawyers, too.


Lindsay Griffiths on April 19th, 2016 at 10:46pm said:

Great stuff, and incredibly reflective of where the industry is today - we see a lot of this in discussions about law firm networks, who are perfectly poised with adaptable, independent, international, business-minded law firms to tackle the needs of global clients.

There's a couple of things that you say that I just love - "The SmartLaw firm is empathetic, agile, and responsive to its clients needs, providing tools and resources for the client to easily manage, communicate, and collaborate with their outside counsel." Yes! I couldn't agree more. The firms and lawyers that are most successful today are those that are flexible and responsive, and able to collaborate with clients, as business partners. The downturn of 2008 taught all of us in legal that being nimble and client-focused is key - whether we embrace it or not is a different story.

"The SmartLaw firm has real business leadership, that regularly consults directly with business group heads in addition to senior partners to make informed and intelligent business decisions." While I think some firms are doing this well, there are more in the industry that still need to catch up, which makes it an incredibly exciting time to be in legal. I don't know that BigLaw is going anywhere, but I do see that there will be a necessary shift to running firms less as partnerships, and more as businesses, which is coming in as the new generation ages into the leadership role. It's interesting to see what's happening now, and what's coming next, and I can't wait to see where the legal industry will end up in the future - ultimately, it will be all to the benefit of the clients, and (I believe) the lawyers

Gordon Vala-Webb on April 29th, 2016 at 4:58pm said:

I like the "smart law" framing (of course I would, I'm in the business of building smarter organizations).

I totally agree with the inclusion of "Culture". Although most law firms (and legal departments) think of their culture as something invisible - and, therefore, largely unchangeable - there are some easy to use tools / approaches that can show leaders their culture. And then they can start to start to shape it.

And I agree with "Technology" - not just because of what it enables but also because, as Marshall Mcluhan said, "First we build the tools, then they build us.” Introducing new technology can change firm culture - for better or worse. Currently, for example, email as the primary communication and collaboration platforn is hobbling firm's abilities to be efficient / effective AND is hyper-siloizing the firms. The answer is the use of team-chat / social networking communication / collaboration platforms.

I struggle with the inclusion of "Client". I agree absolutely that the focus must be on delivering increased client value - but I think this resides more as a question of a change in the culture - i.e. moving from a partner-centric, legal-obsessed, culture to a client-centred, business-focused, one). And I also worry that such an approach excludes others that are important - the lawyers / staff in the firm / department (who are exceedingly mobile), suppliers / partners, and alumni.

My own proposed third pillar would be "Visual management": by that I mean making it possible to see the work being done, and to be as transparent as possible, in how the work gets done (and how the decisions get made). The core to this is the use of enterprise-wide, service-delivery focused, kanban (along with the team-chat / networking communication technology noted above). If you can't see it, you can't co-ordinate it or improve it or communicate about it.

Mitchell Kowalski on April 29th, 2016 at 10:19pm said:

After going through the site, I had only one thought, "damn, I wish I wrote that"!

You are bang on about the importance of people, process and technology.

But let's see who will actually listen,,,,,

Peter on May 2nd, 2016 at 8:02am said:

Great initiative, you've neatly summarised a lot of what I've read about how firms should better manage their practices.

I wonder how 'fast failure' ('fail often and fail fast') fits in with lawyers' ethical obligations? For example, say a solicitor tries a cutting edge eDiscovery platform that has a great new way to build search strings to find documents. Later, it turns out that the solicitor used the software properly, but missed several documents that it should have discovered. The consequences of failing to discover documents have included a judgment being set aside, or a client's pleading being struck out. By 'failing' with the new software, has the solicitor acted in the best interests of the client? Would it be any different if the software did work properly, but the software wasn't intuitive enough to use 'straight out of the box', so the solicitor unknowingly wasn't using the software properly?

I also wonder how 'fast failure' fits in with the time billing model? For example, if a firm tries new technology that takes longer than expected to do work, or that fails altogether and means that the firm has to start the work again from scratch, does the client have to pay for the extra time spent rectifying that failure?

Meltem Anayaroglu on October 11th, 2016 at 7:55pm said:

Great job and many thanks for facilitating a forum to foster our insights...
I am a strong supporter of; giving clients WHAT they need, WHEN they need and in the form that BEST SUITS them.
To achieve this, I believe technology by itself not self sufficient.
The value that legal professionals to add technology for the benefit of the client will not derive from pure automatization or online servicing.
The real value will be embeding our expertise knowledge into machines, systems and processes.
By doing so,the client will be relieved from the burden of recognizing the situation where our expertise is needed.
That must be the way to support a client pro-actively...
So, I believe legal professionals start contemplating and explore collaboration models with their IT colleaques.
This is the only way to serve for the benefit of the society.
Thanks to Prof. Richard Susskind who planted my early insights on legal profession and its future in these disruptive times..

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