The Future of Legal Support Services: Lessons from the BigHand Conference 2024

The Future of Legal Support Services: Lessons from the BigHand Conference 2024
The recent BigHand Conference was incredibly insightful, with lots of key takeaways on how law firms are optimising legal support services by using data to enhance client delivery. Forward-looking firms are not only matching tasks to the right resources, but also evolving teams to boost retention and career progression for modern legal secretary roles.

Two sessions in particular drew high-levels of interaction in relation to the changing-landscape of support services:

  • A BigHand client panel with Simone LeBaigue, IT Solutions Delivery Manager at Roythornes, Nicola Paffard, Head of Legal Process Improvement at Cripps and Claire Phillips, Client Services Manager at Charles Russell Speechlys.

These speakers spoke openly about the key challenges and opportunities for firms in managing support teams in the current climate that I’ll aim to summarise in the rest of this blog.

Adapting to Client Expectations

Throughout the day, one theme everyone seemed to agree on was that more than ever before, clients expect efficient, cost-effective legal services that demonstrate clear value.

Justin emphasised that the legal industry is more competitive than ever, with client loyalty depending on multiple factors beyond price. The panel stressed the importance of assigning the right work to skilled legal administrative professionals, especially in directing the right administrative work to centralized teams so experienced secretaries can assist lawyers with higher-value, billable tasks, and therefore impact client delivery.

In one example, Sandie highlighted the importance of accurate billing, questioning how clients can trust a firm’s legal advice if there are frequent billing errors, and emphasising how support teams can help streamline and improve this process. Justin echoed the need for better billing practices, particularly in the current economic climate where the cost of debt is rising - financial management is more crucial than ever. 

Retaining and Empowering Support Staff and Trainees

To drive efficiencies like the above, law firms must first prioritize retaining legal support staff. Sue discussed rising attrition rates seen in the industry due to increased competition, higher salaries, and demand for ESG-related policies. Talented support staff are in high demand and firms have to respond.

Sandie highlighted the significance of giving trainee lawyers access to support services to prevent them from becoming too self-sufficient and completing administrative tasks that clients don't want to pay lawyers for, which can also lead to inefficiencies in client delivery. Nicola also stressed the importance of lawyers understanding what good support services looks like in order to get the most value from those teams.

This sentiment was echoed by Sue who emphasised the importance of empowering support staff to challenge inefficient processes when they come across them. To foster long-term iterative success with modern-day support, these individuals must feel confident and empowered to act when problems or opportunities arise.

The value of data

It wouldn't be a BigHand conference without plenty of insights into how our clients are successfully using technology to drive the changes demanded by today's legal market. This year however, it was especially great to hear how the data we can provide our clients with is now vital to informing their decision making.

They each spoke about using the data to show team utilisation, identify capacity pockets during busy times, and inform training and recruitment needs. This, along with the ability to track all support work in a centralised system are the core benefits that we promise to continue to provide with BigHand Workflow Management, and which allow our clients to continue to evolve their support structures effectively.

The insights from across the day highlighted the necessity of centralizing support services, empowering staff, refining working practices, and having access to actionable data. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, firms that embrace these changes to be better positioned to deliver value to their clients and maintain competitive advantage. The event’s discussions reaffirmed the critical role of support services in enhancing operational efficiency and client satisfaction for firms today.

Learn more about how BigHand Workflow Management optimises legal support staff services now.

About BigHand Workflow Management

To provide the best client service while supporting your bottom line, it’s vital to ensure your teams are working efficiently and smartly. Ineffective and outdated methods of delegating tasks makes it easy for things to be overlooked, means your workforce isn’t properly optimized, your tasks aren’t being delivered on time, and your bottom line is suffering as a result. BigHand Workflow Management is a task management solution that lets you turn your tasks into fully auditable, digital workflow entries. You can create tasks from voice, email, electronic or paper-based requests – from document production requests to reprographics and travel bookings.

BigHand Workflow Management