Pedestrians 400811Legal professionals are being pushed to their limits, with fixed fees and 24/7 client demands challenging legal efficiency and value add services. This week, Workshare released a Smarter Working report, which looks at how these pressures are impacting firms, and the results ring alarm bells.

The reality is that 78% of respondents - ranging from lawyers to paralegals - are struggling to meet the productivity levels demanded by their profession. For fee earners, this finding may not be all that surprising given the long hours, changing pricing structures, and continuous need for accuracy.

The survey, which polled 220 legal professionals, found that 68% view improved productivity as one of the main business drivers for 2015. With this, we can expect 2015 to be a tipping point for legal efficiency. However, there needs to be a greater focus on those areas where lawyer time is being zapped.

For example, despite 48% reporting that their organization had adopted strategies to improve organizational efficiency, the majority believed more could be done to automate processes, particularly around document review. When asked what the main reasons were for a document being held up, 59% stated slow document turnaround. The next biggest roadblock was cited as consolidating feedback (49%), followed by comparing documents (29%).

Seeing as 86% state it’s important for them to have visibility over a document’s editing history, (including changes made, by whom, and access to a full audit trail,) the above findings reveal the extent to which the cracks brought on by the efficiency squeeze are now beginning to show.

It’s clear that lawyers are not only fed up of admin-intensive tasks but that this drain on productivity is having a detrimental impact on billable hours. Managing partners and their teams need to move fast to address these pricing-model issues.

Some firms are already starting to move productivity firmly onto the agenda with a recent report by ALM Legal Intelligence stating that many large law firms have hired a director of pricing. 38% of firms polled said they have made this job a dedicated role within the firm, and that over half of firms include a pricing professional within their senior leadership team.

The next few months will prove to be crucial for law firms. They must take a hard look at their resourcing and pricing structures, adapt the way their services are provided, and streamline processes to save time. Those who successfully make this transformation will not only make life easier for their lawyers, but will make themselves more profitable.

Download the Smarter Working report here to find out more.

Georgina