I was recently following a discussion on LinkedIn about what Law Firm staff should do to help IT. There were many responses over a period of three months. One response likened IT to fire fighters and staffers to arsonists (LOL – Ben Schorr). Ironically, the specificity of law is not unique to this problem. Legal firms have their own life-cycle and cadence that is certainly unique. The problem of communication and integration of IT and business is worldwide and ubiquitous in all industries.
The basic premise of a law firm is to serve the clientele in matters of the law. IT is also a service (similar to the ever more popular Cloud), which needs to be consumed as such. Often this point is touched upon very lightly or not at all. In fact, some pundits in the industry refer to IT as a commodity or a product. A product (piece of hardware or package of software) is not a solution. Technology enables people and process to create a solution. Thus, ITs basic premise is to serve its clientele in matters of automating processes and assisting people using technology to resolve the problems facing business.
Just as a lawyer prohibits clients from excessive requests of his/her time for a standard retainer, so too must the IT organization prohibit the ad hoc usage of resources outside of the standard practice of requesting assistance. There is a distinct responsibility of the Principals / Partners to provide a common vision for where the firm is heading with priorities and strategy so that IT, likewise, can develop strategy and execution plans to attain the results desired by the firm. The two strategies cannot be developed in a vacuum, separately. This is what has created the chasm which now divides many organizations from their IT. I say vision very demonstratively to point out that one does not plot a route for holiday (vacation) before knowing the destination if the desire is to have the most effective usage of time, energy, money, and the like. This applies to every new wave of technological innovation such as cloud is in today’s environment.
So, the law firm staff needs to understand the results for which IT has prioritized resources and the proper avenue for obtaining the technological solution required. I am not advocating that every staff member be intimate with the strategic planning of the firm; however, I am advocating that the staff know the basic elements of navigation (just as is proper within the context of the law and court room) and respect the course upon which IT has been set by the desired results the firm has established. This will help the staff qualify the situation which they are presenting to IT, just as they would require of the law firm clientele (i.e. expecting representation an hour before the case goes to trial).
IT Transformation Model
The responsibility of IT to understand the processes and practices within the law firm are still relevant to facilitate a better focus on the integration of IT with the business. The ultimate accomplishment being a focus on the user outcomes of both the firm’s clientele and ITs clientele (internal and external).
All organizational staff, law firm or otherwise, have a responsibility to consume the service that IT provides in a manner consistent with the firm’s goals and vision. If the goals and vision are to provide low-cost, high-efficiency, low complexity, and minimal resources, then the expectations of the staff must not be instant response to a new package of software that an associate downloaded on a laptop that is not within the standards and policies set forth by IT. If money is no object, then expectations and demands upon IT are like the size of the retainer (the larger the prominence, the faster the responsiveness).