With market conditions remaining challenging in the legal sector, considerable M&A activity is expected among law firms in the next few years. We expect to see some firms strengthening their core activity through strategic acquisitions, whilst others will consider divesting their non-core operations. These scenarios will pose significant relationship management challenges at a global scale as typically, business units and divisions work in siloes, despite being part of a single organisation.
Foremost, there are cultural differences. Professionals have different ways of working, interacting, collaborating and communicating across geographies and regions. For instance, lawyers in Asia Pacific commonly communicate with clients using Instagram, which is practically unheard of in Europe.
Similarly, what constitutes a ‘client centric’ approach to business varies across regions. In Europe, many of the larger firms have instituted Key Client Management Programmes as part of their business development strategies. In Asia Pacific, however, business development is often driven by individual lawyers based on their personal new business goals and performance objectives set by their firm.
Then there are regulatory and legislative restrictions. Under a Swiss Verein, participating firms are still separate legal entities, so data between them cannot be shared without the appropriate data sharing agreements in place. There are data protection implications too, in addition to those resulting from the GDPR.
Approaches to technology deployment vary substantially as well. Many global firms are operating in silos at a technical level. It is commonplace to see a variety of practice management, CRM and other business management systems deployed in different regions. With business information dispersed across different repositories, a streamlined way of working becomes difficult in many larger firms. The result? A lack of a holistic view of business relationships, commercial opportunities and insightful mercantile data.
At the same time, especially the larger professional services firms, are keen to adopt new and emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. In the absence of a globally aligned and underpinning data infrastructure, these technologies are almost certainly likely to fall short on delivering on their promise.
Globally aligned technology that is underpinned by a common data structure is key to strategic approach to successful world-wide relationship management and business development for growth. It ensures data hygiene and governance, which are imperative for data quality, which in turn facilitates trust in the information and therefore use of that data in the business for data-driven decision-making.
A uniform underlying data infrastructure delivers business insights that uncover opportunities where potentially the firm has the best chance of succeeding. For instance, client relationship management platforms offer advanced data visualisation and business intelligence capabilities that can enable firms to determine the relationship scores with key clients and prospects. Such scores serve as great insight for Key Account Management and Key Client Initiatives. Similarly, data can be leveraged to track business goals, fine-tune programmes based on cultural considerations and cross-functional planning across regions.
It’s important for global firms to break the silos in order to operate uniformly across the organisation. A single, firm-wide and global technology platform can enable this approach, especially today where deploying and rolling out a solution globally is no longer an issue – thanks to the hybrid cloud-based delivery model. It allows firms to adopt a data-driven approach enterprise-wide while maintaining the security, business and data governance requirements of the different geographies.