Accountancy and legal practices all pride themselves on their expertise and ability to offer clients the best advice but this is now no longer enough to ensure success.
While professional knowledge and the ability to help their clients is still paramount, in reality, accountancy and legal firms – together with all professional service providers – are under attack. There are already caps on fees for certain types of work, e.g. litigation. Deregulation in some professional areas is imminent. Indeed, Amazon has taken its first steps toward providing its own legal services offering expertise at a pre-negotiated rate.
The professional services sector is ripe for disruption
The older-style practices that promote themselves as custodians of legal or financial knowledge have a misplaced belief. Unless there is a keen focus on embracing technologies to do the lower-level work output, the ability to charge fees will be affected and your organisation risks falling behind the competition.
Therefore, the question you need to put to your directors is: do you think your sector is going to change over the next decade because of the use of technology? If so, where do you want to be – somewhere at the back or trailblazing using the kind of technology that’s right for your business? If the latter, then you need to start implementation sooner rather than later to keep your firm ahead of the curve.
One thing we discovered at the Alternative Legal IT Conference we recently attended was that many fee earners do understand why and where their firms need to change and to embrace technology. However, they are not voicing their opinion, which means their directors are unaware of the need to move forward. It is therefore imperative to alert decision-makers to the different ways technology can add value to service delivery.
From working with clients in the legal and accounting professions, we know that what a firm’s decision-makers think the company wants isn’t necessarily what the company actually needs. Yet across the accounting, legal and professional service sectors, where knowledge and expertise are the fundamental parts of the business, profits are being chipped away by tasks that can readily be automated by the right technology.
This is something that the Boards of the large companies have recognised and are implementing, giving them a greater advantage over their more traditional-thinking competitors. The UK’s big four accountancy firms have already adopted new technology systems to make better use of fee earners’ time, allowing their businesses to grow even further.
Our message is therefore that your practice needs to wake up to the threats and opportunities within your sector and embrace the advantages that technology offers in order to move forward.