What it means to be a law firm in today’s marketplace is changing.
Large firms are experiencing the challenge of managing growth and expansion in a fundamentally service-oriented business. In an industry where reputation is everything, entering a new market as an outsider or an unknown is no small task.
Smaller firms, meanwhile, have taken the economic advice of Adam Smith and have focused on their specializations — doubling down on existing areas of expertise and selectively targeting new practice opportunities in technology, contracts, international business, startup support, and other areas where demand may be outpacing available supply.
These twin movements have in turn added fire to the pace of M&A activity among firms — as large organizations seek to scale through growth, established smaller or niche practice firms become attractive merger and acquisition candidates.
But the business models aren’t the only part of the law firm industry that’s undergoing a seismic shift.
Simply put, reputation matters in the legal industry — the prestige of the partners, the amount of relevant trial experience, the willingness of others to recommend the firm, it’s all essential to sustaining the business and growing revenue.
As such, the legal practice has become well-known as an industry where every member of the team can be found in the office working long hours most every day of the week. The accumulation of billable hours is a practice that starts with paralegals and junior staff, and continues throughout whole careers as team members move through the ranks to become attorneys and partners.
It’s also a practice that may have finally hit a breaking point.
As many existing partners begin succession planning and a significant influx of new law school graduates enters the industry, a host of new work-life balance and multi-generational workforce support initiatives have found their way into firms around the world. The very culture of many practices is shifting, raising questions for how firms can manage that change and preserve the aspects of their business and approach that helped to create a heritage that may span decades, generations, or even centuries.
Yet while markets may be evolving and cultures may be changing, the expertise at the heart of the legal practice’s services is stronger than ever. The wisdom of their team has always been what’s set firms apart — now, many offices are investing in technology to manage, scale, extend, and amplify that knowledge.
While many of the technologies now breaking into the legal market designed as proprietary specialized tools that address niche opportunities, one tool stands apart as a flexible, versatile means that helps firms develop their competitive advantages — video.
Video is helping law firms make their expertise more agile — extending cultures into new markets, new nations, and new acquisitions, preserving and sharing the expertise of partners, onboarding new hires and supporting the needs of a multigenerational workplace, and even facilitating new trends in work-life balance.
Enabling efficient eDiscovery for video files
Identifying, collecting, producing, and reviewing electronically stored information and content required for audits and lawsuits — a process known as electronic discovery or eDiscovery — has become an essential service offering many law firms.
As organizations of all sizes move away from the printed document and conduct more and more of their business through digital means, eDiscovery practitioners are charged with being able to fully discern not only what information exists, but also where it’s stored, and how it can be collected, reviewed, and produced for broader consumption — often under enforced deadlines with potential to draw fines and penalties.
While eDiscovery certainly includes traditional office documents and emails, increasingly it also includes organizational video. Video is one of the fastest growing types of content in the corporate world today, used for everything from conference calls and webinars to training, marketing, executive and investor communications, sales prospecting, customer service, and more. At businesses today, the use of unstructured information growing 2-3x as fast as structured data.
With more and more video being created, searching inside videos is becoming critical to eDiscovery. Yet video creates three distinct problems for electronic discovery professionals.
That’s why many legal teams — both in-house at large organizations and independent firms — are turning to video platforms to assist with video eDiscovery. Modern video platforms offer much more efficient video search — Panopto, for example, indexes every word spoken and every word that appears on-screen for every video in a corporate library, allowing for video files to be reviewed in seconds instead of hours.
Recording and searching interviews, discussions, and conversations
Along with the potential value in being able to search clients’ video for eDiscovery, many firms are finding that the usefulness of comprehensive video search extends to their own offices as well.
The practice of law may be evolving, but a core part continues to be built on interactions with clients, witnesses, defendants, experts, and a host of other parties, all with the intent of helping attorneys come to understand any particular project or request in full, so that an informed case can be made.
In practice, this has traditionally involved pages and pages of detailed notes, taken as legal professionals work to document all the ins and outs. It’s extensive, time-consuming manual labor — and results in an unsearchable stack of paper.
Video, however, is changing all that. Recording those interactions as permitted enables the team to quickly sift through each conversation at a later date. With a tool like Panopto, such discussions can be easily captured with just about any video recording device. And because Panopto indexes and time-stamps every word spoken in a recording, lawyers can quickly find and re-watch any part of that conversation again as needed — without sorting through a mountain of paper notes.
Preserving and extending internal expertise
In an industry where firms trade on their reputations, being recognized as the expert in a given subject creates a competitive advantage like no other. But practice specialization can create a crisis-in-waiting — employing the best minds in the field may help a firm secure more business today, but what happens when that expert leaves the firm?
Most firms with a practice specialty take care to include in their ranks a junior team member who can serve as protégé to their expert. Still, such a relationship doesn’t always guarantee an expert-in-waiting — many subjects are too complicated to learn by watching over someone else’s shoulder. In the legal industry especially, many subject areas are fraught with complexity — vague laws, contradictory precedent, and rapidly evolving real-world applications are just a few of the sources that generate the detailed nuances that great legal teams use to win cases and claims.
Often legal teams will pass on this level of insight informally, through simple conversation. But when this is the case, such wisdom is often easily lost — unrecorded and inaccessible unless perfectly memorized when heard.
Video offers a better option to helping firms capture, preserve, and share the expertise that they depend on to establish their reputations as the best minds in the business.
With video, specialists can record their insights for later reference — often without even adding any steps to their normal workflow. Simply by recording training sessions, strategy meetings, document reviews, and other points where experts commonly share their knowledge they can easily record all the insights they use in their work, and make them all searchable and shareable as part of the firm’s central video library — ready for the next generation of in-house experts to learn from.
Supporting and training four generations of employees
There may be no other industry on Earth that has experienced the challenge of supporting multiple generations of employees in the workplace quite as the legal profession has. Ripples effects of the worldwide economic recession have been felt keenly in the legal industry — creating challenges at both ends of the demographic spectrum.
At the top, many partners and other experienced employees who count themselves as members of the Silent and Baby Boom generations have opted to delay retirement, staying on to see their firms through hard times as well as secure their own retirement accounts.
At the other end, a new wave of JD graduates — stemming from the spike in law school admissions that coincided with the collapse of the job market during the recession — is putting new pressure on firms to identify top talent in a saturated market, and to onboard those new hires efficiently to bring them up to speed on the firm’s particular approach to the practice of law.
When it comes to supporting organizational training, video is a flexible tool that can support and scale virtually any application — for just about any audience. Video can extend existing corporate classrooms, allowing internal learning and development teams to easily scale and share essential compliance training or technology update information — and make it available on-demand, anytime and anywhere for anyone to learn from.
For supporting established employees, video can help trainers become more efficient — allowing them to create a library of training content that can be referenced anytime, rather than require trainers to deliver the same sessions over and over.
For supporting new hires, video is an ideal way to support extended onboarding — allowing firms to create a “First 30 Days” experience where new team members can learn everything about how to succeed in the organization — from HR and benefits info to explanations of corporate strategy, practice specialties, and who’s who in the firm.
Communicating organizational information and cultural expectations
As many legal practices shift and change to adapt to evolving market conditions, maintaining strong internal communications is essential to ensuring that every member of the team is on the same page and working with the same priorities.
Yet that’s no small challenge — not only can these corporate values shift with the market, today they are also often recalculated any time a global expansion or acquisition occurs that instantly changes the face of the firm (or one of its competitors).
Video is an exceptionally valuable tool to help firms manage their cultures and share the heritage that makes their offices unique. For ordinary day to day communications, video can expedite executive communications — making quarterly results, internal announcements, and any other message both easier to create and more engaging to view than a typical email.
And for those dramatic shifts in corporate structure, video can be a crucial tool for bringing a newly acquired firm into the fold, or bridging communications between the home office and new satellite locations, whether they are around the corner or around the globe.
Best of all, video is a versatile medium. Firms may deliver important meetings and events live streaming on the web by webcasting — a one-click technology that can broadcast a video via the internet to thousands or even tens of thousands of views. Or, firms may find that some subjects are best suited for on-demand video, where information or training can be recorded and shared for viewers to watch wherever and whenever suits their schedules.
Establishing credibility through personally-delivered content marketing
As firms seek to grow their reputations across markets and specialties, a new approach to marketing has swept through the legal industry. It’s now almost impossible to open an industry journal without finding counsel to take up “content marketing” — promotion not by traditional advertising but instead through the sharing of helpful insights, strategic advice, and industry thought-leadership.
Content marketing has won enthusiastic support in the legal community as a scalable marketing initiative with a high ROI — unlike traditional ads, which disappear when the media budget dries up, content marketing lives on through web sites, blog posts, news articles, and other venues online, where potential clients may find them as they search for a related service. Because content is typically developed in-house and lives on firm-owned web pages, its cost is limited, and its availability lasts forever. Google never forgets a valuable web page — a single blog post may help bring clients to a firm for years and years.
Yet as more and more firms take up the practice of content marketing, it’s no longer enough to jot down a few ideas and count the effort complete. Content must stand out in order to make an impact — and that’s where video again can assist.
More compelling than text and more engaging than a brochure, video is the secret to helping content marketing stand out. The data is compelling. Up to 85% of people are more likely to engage with a company if they saw an explainer video first. Even just including the word “video” in an email subject line increases click-through rates about 10%.
And while many marketers connect video first with traditional, high-cost and high-production television ads, some of the most valuable — and popular — uses for video today aren’t commercials but explanations. Simple interviews with experts on considerations for a common inquiry, or walkthroughs of a common legal practices and procedures, are often just the type of content interested potential clients want to see — that can also be quickly and professionally produced in-house.
Supporting work-life balance and the accessible virtual law firm
Across every industry, the modern workplace is changing. Employees expect greater work-life balance, greater accessibility for working remotely, and greater flexibility to work the hours that are most productive for them. The legal profession has not been immune to this trend.
Gone is the era of the 9-5 office. More than ever before, firms have been tasked to enable employees to work the schedules that meet their own needs. And this means finding opportunities to deliver information that would have previously been simply handed off in person, and to facilitate interactions that before would have taken place in a conference room.
Here again, video offers an answer that allows firms to meet the expectations of the modern employee and build flexibility into the workplace.
By using video to support internal training and communications, firms are able to package up information that previously would have required an employee to attend a session in person. Now with video, employees can access a recording of that very same session on-demand from anywhere, enabling them to study compliance on their bus ride commute home, or catch up on the quarterly announcement at night after the kids are in bed. Employees can even search for content they may need as part of an ongoing project and find all the related videos on the corporate library — right from any laptop or smartphone.
Likewise, video offers the opportunity to broadcast events and meetings via the internet — meaning that team members can follow along on the latest strategy discussions live from anywhere in the world with just a laptop and a wifi connection.
And video is more than a one-way communication tool. With a modern video platform like Panopto, employees can quickly record and share their own video with the organization, as easily as pressing “record” on the built-in webcam on their laptops or smartphones. This opens the door for employees to share ideas and expertise, capture client discussions, record demonstrations, and more.
Maintaining a central, secure library of video assets
No matter how any legal practice uses video most often, in the end, nearly every one creates a robust library of video files in the process. Panopto is the only video platform that integrates best-of-breed recording and webcasting with a secure video library. All of your Panopto recordings and live webcasts are automatically uploaded into the library and converted for optimal viewing on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Pre-recorded videos can also be uploaded and converted for playback on any device.
And as the video library grows, Panopto provides a unique video search engine that makes finding information inside your videos as easy as searching for content within email and documents. Simply enter a phrase or world like “Compliance” into Panopto’s video search engine – you’ll find every relevant recording in your collection and be able to fast-forward to each point in your videos where the term is mentioned (click here to try the search yourself). Not only can comprehensive video search help your team find what they were looking for more quickly — it can also help them find recordings they didn’t even know existed.
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Panopto is a video platform that enables you to incorporate multimedia presentations, live broadcasts, and other video content into your communication, documentation, and training strategies, helping your technology organization operate smarter, act more productively, and scale more efficiently.