New research confirms that law firms have reduced their cost base – the next challenge is to increase the efficiency of individuals

While streamlining everyday work processes into single systems to make law firms more efficient has been the focus of most firms to-date, future technologies will concentrate on making individuals more productive, efficient and mobile, according to new market insights.

The 2014 LexisNexis study into Workflow & Productivity found that the most popular efficiency initiatives adopted by law firms were the use of technology, knowledge management and staff training. In-house lawyers also relied heavily on technology followed by outsourcing to external lawyers and flexible work practices.

"The study, which comprised a survey and roundtable with senior legal professionals to stress test the findings of the survey, confirms that the pressure is coming mainly from clients pushing for a better deal; as well as growing competition as legal work becomes more commoditised. In-house lawyers on the other hand, cite an increased workload and the pressure to justify their value as the main drivers for their efficiency efforts," LexisNexis Pacific Chief Operating Officer, Dr Marc K Peter, commented.

"And while technology is clearly an important tool, it is equally clear that lawyers are also placing a strong emphasis on non-technology efficiency drivers."

When asked which initiatives have been the most successful law firms rated skills training and flexible staff work practices as their third and fourth biggest success stories, after technology and knowledge management. In-house lawyers ranked flexible staff work practices as their most successful initiative, followed by: outsourcing to external lawyers, knowledge management and skills training.

"As providers of professional services where intellectual capital is the stock in trade, it's heartening to see efforts directed at continually building the organisation's intellectual capital and improving staff engagement and retention through flexible work initiatives", Dr Peter added.

Least successful efficiency initiatives for law firms were graduate intake reduction and outsourcing to overseas law firms. This finding suggests that initial enthusiasm for legal process outsourcing may not have fulfilled its promise.

Conversely, corporate lawyers said their least successful initiatives were the use of mobile technologies and alternative billing arrangements; a result that suggests the culture of '24/7 availability' facilitated by mobile technology is adding to workload pressures in a negative way for in-house counsel.

Law firms considered that the best opportunity for future efficiency gains lay again in optimising technology resources; followed by talent management and modifying staff roles and responsibilities. Corporate lawyers similarly identified technology as the most fertile area to unlock future opportunity; followed by process improvements/automation and talent management. Outsourcing was seen as the least promising strategy for both law firms and in-house counsel.

All survey participants agreed that efficiency gains will continue to be a major focus over the next one to two years with roundtable participants subsequently adding that making individuals more efficient will be the priority: survey respondents reported widespread lack of knowledge about the size of their organisation's investment in productivity improvements with 34 per cent of law firm respondents and 37 per cent of corporate lawyers unaware of their organisation's funding commitment.

More importantly, of the corporate lawyers surveyed, 43 per cent said that five per cent or less of their annual budget is allocated to efficiency initiatives, while 26 per cent of law firm respondents reported an investment of five per cent of less of annual revenue, and another 26 percent an investment of between five and10 percent of revenue.

Importantly, the findings confirm that efficiency gains for individuals and particularly lawyers, is an important future firm strategy.

"More and more professionals in private practice are using mobile devices for legal research, matter and document management, which can make them available 24/7 in the event of an important matter irrespective of their location. LexisNexis® Red™ and Lexis® for Microsoft® Office are great examples of this. Equally, bespoke solutions for solicitors practising in specialised fields will enhance the productivity of individuals.

"Technology has revolutionised and energised the legal profession in Australia. Increasingly however, the focus will be on making legal professionals efficient, relevant and commercially oriented,"Dr Peter predicts.

The whitepaper – Workflow and Productivity Solutions is available at

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Louise Nealon
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About LexisNexis Legal & Professional

LexisNexis® Legal & Professional is a leading global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics that help professional customers make more informed decisions, increase productivity and serve their clients better. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. Today, LexisNexis Legal & Professional harnesses leading-edge technology and world-class content to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways. Through close collaboration with its customers, the company ensures organizations can leverage its solutions to reduce risk, improve productivity, increase profitability and grow their business. LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which serves customers in more than 175 countries with 10,000 employees worldwide, is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries.