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AGILITY IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW



The fourth industrial revolution has launched us into times of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. And as our world grows more complex with the myriad of connected systems and relations, traditional lawyers no longer meet the needs of changing customer demands and economic conditions. Clients are demanding more agility from their legal professionals to offer assurance and guidance during these VUCA times we live in.


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 him/her. Agile leaders are said to undertake a personal mind shift from being reactive, that is acting in response to or what is generally expected of one by the environment to being creative, reacting in a way that enables one to create one’s own reality and tap into one’s passion, authentic self and purpose.


Firstly the agile leader should 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), skills that are of vital importance today to provide innovative and creative solutions to clients legal problems and imagine new ways of delivering legal service and assistance to clients, to ensure advantage is taken of the innovation offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, grasping new market opportunities before the traditional law firms make the same realisation.


Secondly the agile leader should adopt a partnership mindset as opposed to the traditional, hierarchal structures mindset of superiors and subordinates, characterised by micro-managing . The agile leader should 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 others. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Thirdly, as the last mindshift required, emphasize should be placed on the abundance of possibilities, opportunities and resources available in the legal market as opposed to the traditional emphasis on scarcity , with the governing rational being that the more scarce the resources, the higher the demand, thus the higher the price that can be charged by legal professionals . (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


The creative mindsets of discovery, partnership and abundance ensures legal professionals have an open mind, focused not only on the traditional practice and application of law, but consider the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, using same to their advantage to identify and seize alternative possibilities, opportunities and solutions (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Agile leaders must 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. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


As the fourth Industrial revolution as shifted the way we work and live our lives, greater emphasis is being placed on work life balance. The emerging working population, consisting of millennials, born between 1980 – 2000, seek a more balanced lifestyle that is family orientated and provides flexibility, authenticity and diversity. In light of this market demand, agile leaders should encourage the teams to work in rapid, high volume work cycles to ensure effective and efficient value is created and delivered to clients while providing sufficient time for personal life and family. Teams members should thus be encouraged to prioritize the most urgent tasks , with the leader helping and guiding teams to undertake intense focused work, which ensures that priority tasks are completed and value is delivered (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Lastly, in relation to the above and ensuring value is delivered for the customers, leaders must encourage their teams to identify and grasp a deeper understanding of client needs and demands, to ensure that unmet or even unrecognized needs and demands are seized before competitors do same. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018) Creative strategies and process such as design thinking or business innovative models will be particularly useful to lawyers to think beyond the traditional application and practice of law, to generate new ideas, solutions or options available to a client in regard to a legal matter they need advice and assistance on. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Once the leader has shifted their own mind sets and have applied and assisted teams in applying the agile methods of working, the leader should focus on organisational level capabilities which will ensure agility is infused throughout the whole organisation. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


The leader should ensure a common purpose is instilled through out the organsaition to provide stability and certainty, offering direction and guidance as to what is most important and to be achieved in the VUCA economy. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Once a common purpose has been instilled through the orgsanition that encourages creativity, focused work and innovation, the agile leader should focus on aligning the firm’s design with agile principles and practices. The leader should focus on building a distributed firm, made up of smaller, empowered units, with fewer layers, great transparency and fast paced work cycles, constantly evolving and growing in line with VUCA times and the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution . This will ensure that opportunities are seen and seized and that resources and capabilities are shifted and reallocated to where they will generate the most value and adjust in a volatile and unknown environment. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Lastly the agile leader should undertake a personal multifaceted transformation, considering and evaluating his/her won capabilities and behavior. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)

To ensure that the agility is introduced and embedded throughout the whole organsaition, the agile leader should shift and transform the organisational culture by way of role modelling, fostering understanding and building capabilities (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)

Role modelling, referring to the demonstrated behaviour by leaders themselves or as commonly referred to as “walking the talkl” is one of the greatest influencers to ensure employees adopt and demonstrate the innovation, creativity and agility demanded by clients in the 21st century (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


The agile leader should further engage in regular interactive interactions and discussion with employees to ensure an open, partnership based approach that encourages collaboration, innovation and creativity. (Smet, Lurie, & George, 2018)


Lastly the agile leader should encourage and provide employees the opportunity to upskill and acquire new mind sets and capabilities to enable them to be more innovative, creative and agile to provide the best possible legal solutions to clients.


Leading Agile Transformation: The New Capabilities Leaders Need to Build 21st Century Organisations | A De Smet, M Lurie, A George| McKinsey & Co |October 2018

Available from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/leading-agile-transformation-the-new-capabilities-leaders-need-to-build-21st-century-organizations#:~:text=Leading%20agile%20transformation%3A%20The%20new,to%20build%2021st%2Dcentury%20organizations&text=To%20build%20and%20lead%20an,their%20teams%2C%20and%20the%20organization.

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