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WANTED: The Agile Law Firm

We live in a time of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA). COVID19, has made this more evident than ever before. Our world keeps getting more complex with connected systems and relations, ills and inventions. Things keep changing, while so much becomes increasingly uncertain.

The current epidemic is forcing us to reflect. As lawyers, it is a time to think about our traditional roles and our firms. Are we meeting the needs of changing customer demands and economic conditions? Will our firms survive this disaster? What do will we look like in 2021?

One thing is for sure, the time and our clients seem to be demanding more agility from their legal professionals, to offer assurance and guidance during a time of VUCA.

We have put together some starting ideas on how to become an Agile Leader to help you foster an Agile Firm.

What is an agile leader?

Agile leaders have a unique mindset that is focused on the positive, seeing all possibilities as opposed to being focused only on the set of facts as it appears before them. Agile leaders are creative rather than reactive, creating their own reality by tapping into their passion, authentic self and purpose.

Agile leaders shy away from the comfort of certainty and fully embrace discovery as a daily mantra. Discovery seeks diversity, embraces risk and encourages creativity, innovation and experimentation (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018).

These skills are critical in the legal practice of today:

  • to solve new client problems,

  • to imagine renewed way of delivering service;

  • to ensure legaltech is utilised to your benefit;

  • to grasp new market opportunities and expand your reach.

Curiosity drives innovations. The abundance of possibilities, opportunities and resources available in the legal market must be explored with a creative mindset keen on discovery, partnership and abundance. The agile leader find ways to use these to innovate the practice of law.

Agile leaders collaborate

Agile leaders adopt a partnership-mindset, as opposed to the traditional, hierarchal structures of superiors and subordinates, characterised by micro-managing.

They encourage and create a culture of collaboration, openness, joint problem solving, guidance and support with the aim to share and tap into the skills, creativity and expertise of othes.

The Agile Team & Firm

Agile leaders should focus on creating small, autonomous teams that are dynamic, empowered, high performing and well connected. The team should consist of the right mix of skills, expertise, knowledge and experience to ensure there is a diverse representation of legal professionals and practitioners. This will ensure that all aspects of a client’s matter is considered, including those aspects that do not initially appear relevant or important to resolving the problem at hand. To ensure sufficient diversity, the agile leader should create space that allows for listening, fostering of creativity and considering of different perspectives.

The way we work is changing. The current epidemic has shown us the fragility of work, and how adaptable systems have to be to survive. Work-from-home solutions are needed, flexibility for parents, and for younger people entering the work-force looking for greater work-life balance. Firms need to be family orientated, provide flexibility, authenticity and diversity.

How do they do this?

Agile leaders encourage their teams to work in rapid, high volume work cycles which ensures high value for clients. These cycles, often called sprints, provide sufficient time for personal life and family. Draw from different disciplines, look into the Scrum Methodology used by Software Engineers to work more efficiently.

The agile leader, encourages their legal-team to delve deeper to understand client needs and demands, to ensure that unmet or unrecognised needs and demands are solved proactively.

Lead first, then they follow

Once you shift into a mode of agility, embed it throughout your team by focussing on organisational level capabilities that champion agility. Ensure a common purpose is instilled throughout your firm to provide stability and certainty, offering direction and guidance as to what is most important to be achieved in the VUCA economy.

To ensure that agility becomes part of your culture, you need to be the role-model. This is done through demonstrating agile behaviour, “walking the talk” is one of the greatest influencers to ensure employees adopt and demonstrate the innovation, creativity and agility demanded by clients in the 21st century.

Talk and Foster Growth

You should further engage in regular interactive sessions and discussion with your teams to ensure an open partnership-based approach that encourages collaboration, innovation and creativity. By being open to communication and ensuring a culture of sharing, your team start co-creating a new future with you.

Provide your team with the opportunity to upskill and acquire capabilities to enable them to be more innovative, creative and agile to provide the best possible legal solutions to clients.

By Kristi Erasmus

Head of Faculty

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