2016 set records for Fireman & Company. We grew our team, added a new practice area, and assisted many new law firm and law department clients. We now count over 30% of the Am Law 100, and four of the top 10 most profitable US firms as clients. In 2016, we continued as the legal industry leader in knowledge management consulting. We worked on numerous KM strategy initiatives, intranet redesign projects, and enterprise search evaluations and deployments. We also led projects involving document management, legal project management, process improvement, and artificial intelligence (AI).
In this 2016 year-in-review, we explain why the legal market is shifting, review our 2016 experiences, and report on the trends we see for 2017.
Market in Transition: Flat Demand Drives a Focus on Service Delivery Improvement
In 2016, firms realized that cutting expenses was no longer enough. Future success requires changing how firms deliver legal services. That means managing matters, deploying technology for practice efficiency, improving practice processes, using knowledge management effectively, and delegating work to lower cost resources.
The Citi Private Bank 2017 Client Advisory, reports that revenue growth will remain flat, and recommends that law firms improve service delivery:
“In a market where clients want the most efficient delivery of legal services, the market will reward law firms who focus on operational efficiency in its broadest sense — not just managing expenses, but transforming the way they run their firms and deliver legal services”
Fireman & Company helps firms with that transformation.
Fireman & Company 2016 in Review
Our growth this year was driven by law firm management eager to see lawyers work more efficiently and effectively. We created a new practice area, expanded our team, partnered with more software companies, and added many new clients and projects.
We also grew by assisting corporate legal departments determine the most effective way forward by designing and implementing technology and workflow solutions. With increased internal cost center pressures, our best practices enabled more responsive and proactive workflow management for their internal clients, and improved efficiency when working with outside counsel.
Established Our PPI Practice. We created the legal market’s first Performance, Profitability and Innovation (PPI) practice group. The PPI Group helps law firms improve profits by combining the right mix of process improvement, legal project management, knowledge management, and pricing and financial analytics. We worked closely with several Am Law 200 firms to improve how they manage and deliver legal work to drive more profits.
Grew Our Team. In February, Tom Baldwin joined us as Partner, bringing over 20 years of award-winning legal experience, including his work as CIO at Cadwalader and CKO at Reed Smith. In June, we allied with Gimbal Canada to add deep Lean Six Sigma experience for improving the practice of law.
Built our Partnerships. Our technology partners provide software that is key to improving law practice efficiency. We deepened our exclusive partnership with Handshake Software, which provides key functionality for creating practice portals. We use Handshake to create leading practice portals and are now assisted in that effort by our new partner Door3, a top UI/UX design firm. Our Handshake partnership took on new significance with the acquisition of Recommind by OpenText. Handshake offers an excellent SharePoint-based search solution. This year, we helped two Am Law 100 firms switch to Handshake Universal Search from Recommind. We also became RAVN Systems’ sole search partner in North America, as legal market demand for advanced search, data analytics, and AI solutions skyrocketed. On document management, we continue to work closely with both NetDocuments and iManage. We are the leaders in designing and implementing document management that supports everyday lawyer workflows.
Our Take on 2017 Trends
Here are the key trends we see for 2017:
- A New Generation of Intranets: Many firms now want a modern intranet and seek to replace aging, administratively focused intranets with elegantly designed, practice-focused intranets that lawyers find useful.
- Are the Robots Coming?: AI continues to be a hot topic. We have never before had as many in-bound, unsolicited inquiries on a new legal market trend. Firms are moving from investigation or a “check the box” approach to working systems that drive profits.
- Search Upgrades and Expands: With OpenText’s acquisition of Recommind, many firms are re-evaluating their search strategy. And those firms that never deployed search seek to do so now. We expect to see continued high interest in enterprise search systems from Handshake, BA Insight, RAVN, and other players. New technology and a decade of search experience is driving an expansive view of search: we see a growing role for it in analytics and new functions such as matter staffing.
- Law Firms Take Steps to Improve Profitability: The Citi report makes clear firms must reduce legal delivery cost to drive improvement in profitability. Consequently, we expect LPM, process improvement, alternative staffing, and new practice technologies to remain hot. This is especially true for firms that started pricing functions before they had the ability to reduce legal delivery cost.
- Fixing Document Management: DMS continues to be white-hot, with major shifts in the supplier landscape. It has become clear to us that, irrespective of platform, firms need to improve DMS design to gain lawyer adoption of the DMS and avoid security risks and knowledge management failure.
Please contact us if you need assistance improving your firm’s profitability and performance or if you would like to discuss these trends.