Qualified lawyer, Rippan Vig shares her 2018 legal predictions and journey from practising solicitor to Director of Client & Strategic Development.

I started out my legal career practising law for 8 years, which included 3 years at my current firm, Watson Farley & Williams. After the 8 years, I moved into client service and business development for a large investment management company before finding my way back to Watson Farley & Williams.

Practising law was my passion for a long time, but now I have the best of both worlds.

As Director of Client & Strategic Development, I am part of shaping the direction of the firm but still get to feed the legal part of my brain and learn about new legal solutions. Propero Partners came to me to ask whether I’d contribute to their blog. They asked for my take—having both a legal and business development background—on the legal landscape.

To me, it boils down to 3 things:

The Challenges

I see 3 major challenges the legal industry has been facing and will continue to face in the next 10–15 years:

(1) External factors such as the revival of accountancy firms entering the legal market with a different way of providing services than many of the more traditional law firms.

(2) Law firm consolidation through mergers and alliances—to create scale and international impact will challenge those firms who fail to differentiate themselves through a defined and targeted strategy.

(3) Cultural change: Infrastructure can be put in place, operations are relatively easy to change, but culture isn’t because it requires buy-in from everyone concerned. The most successful law firms in the next decade will be those who embrace change.

If firms are prepared to keep an open mind and refine their offerings to provide value to their clients, who we have to remember will also be facing similar extraneous challenges in their own markets, I do believe, the challenges will also bring opportunities.

Supporting The New Generation of Lawyers

Although many firms offer holiday placements for students aiming to become lawyers, I would like to see more focus on encouraging students to consider other careers in the legal industry too.

In the future, the legal industry will need to become more holistic (rather than offering legal services in isolation), to meet competition and client demands. With expectations set high, legal firms will need access to and relationships with people who have different skill sets, knowledge and experience.

For example, millennials have been raised around digital and are comfortable with it. As firms start to see the benefits of adopting a digital presence, we will see more investment, in both the infrastructure and people required for success in digital transformation.

Trends of The Future

For me, the big trends to look out for are: changes to client buying habits and demands and AI supporting the more laborious tasks (in the medium term).

As I mentioned, there’s already a shift in the way legal services are being provided. However, clients are also driving change by the way they buy legal services. Apps and pay to play portals are giving clients tailored information and playing a key role in client engagement.

The market will always have behemoths and small boutique firms, but I anticipate the pressures on firms to provide value will lead to more collaboration with other law firms and industry service providers.

When it comes to AI, there will always be a requirement for legal services and clients will always want to work with people they like and who understand their businesses. AI will never replace that, however, it will provide huge support and an opportunity for firms willing to embrace it.

Alongside already identified AI tasks such as assisting in due diligence and discovery, my hope is for it to mine existing data, to assess whether matters are being resourced properly and work out profitability and efficiencies to identify specific trends within the business that we undertake for a particular client.

This is a guest piece written by Rippan Vig, Director of Client & Strategic Development at Watson Farley & Williams.

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