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Legal service delivery models, client expectations and business structures are very different than they were even just a few years ago. The way firms compete and who they compete with, the staff they employ or outsource, where they’re located, and the importance of artificial intelligence (AI), business analytics, automation and big data also are growing concerns in law.

When you add these shifts to the rapid rate of technological change, the legal industry continues to evolve faster than ever—and the status quo is just not an option if firms want to stay relevant. The key to success for firms today and in the future is SmartLaw, a concept that combines client relationships, culture, data, process and technology.


Nearly every firm markets their rock-solid focus on clients, but in reality, most have a fragile relationship with clients. The conventional wisdom is that clients hire the lawyer, not the firm. This thinking has led to a merry-go-round of high-profile rainmakers using their clients as leverage against their own firms to get a better deal for themselves. While this practice has been lucrative for individual lawyers, that hasn’t necessarily been the case for their firms and definitely not for their clients.

Firms that engage in the SmartLaw approach maintain positive relationships with their clients at every level, from partner to secretary to IT staff. SmartLaw firms are empathetic, agile and responsive to clients’ needs, providing tools and resources for the client to easily manage, communicate and collaborate with their outside counsel. When a high-profile partner leaves a SmartLaw firm, clients will have to seriously consider whether they go with the lawyer or stay with the firm, because the firm-client relationship is strong.

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SmartLaw-guided firms have real business leadership that consults regularly and directly with business group heads and senior partners to make informed and intelligent business decisions. More importantly, SmartLaw leadership can define, articulate and effectively communicate a vision for the firm, so that everyone shares in a singular purpose, confident that their work is valued.


SmartLaw firms actively systematize and standardize processes so that they can truly transform their legal service delivery model. They also put structured data to work inside of those routines, not only for analysis purposes but to trigger and automate workflow steps that typically would have been performed manually by people in the firm. Consistency, accuracy, repeatability, predictability, and efficiency—combined with varying degrees of automation—are crucial to becoming a smarter, more successful organization.

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