Building an Agile Law Firm: 5 Principles of NewLaw

Building an Agile Law Firm

The legal profession is rooted in tradition. While traditions have their merits, they eventually become outdated and can block progress. In order to build agile law firms, it’s critical to innovate on law processes and reexamine the traditional approach to make sure it’s still the best approach.

Enter NewLaw: a fresh take on the legal field that aims to solve the problems that arise from doing things the same way for too long.

Today we’re discussing how NewLaw can help you build the lean law firm of your dreams, and help you unlock a more fulfilling career. You’ll learn:

  • What NewLaw is 
  • 5 principles of NewLaw to adopt at your firm 

What is NewLaw? 

NewLaw is an innovative approach to law firm operations that values flexibility and agility. Using technology to streamline processes is a cornerstone of building an agile NewLaw firm.

For clients, NewLaw is beneficial because it’s more affordable, efficient, and transparent than the old school way of doing things.

For firms, the NewLaw approach lets them work more efficiently, resulting in higher profitability. It empowers attorneys to spend less time on admin and more time on billable work. 

5 principles of NewLaw to embrace for an agile law firm 


Whether you’re starting a law practice from scratch or want to move your firm away from inefficient, traditional techniques, you can adopt these NewLaw principles to build a leaner, agile law firm. 

We’re illustrating these principles by juxtaposing them against the Big Law approach. 

1.Organizational design that supports a distributed law firm

Big Law approach
Big Law firms take a
centralized approach to organizational design. They’re typically built around a single location, and expand from there. Big Law firms tend to be known for servicing a particular geographic area. 

These giants are focused on expanding their teams. With an extensive team, however, comes expensive overhead and payroll.

NewLaw approach
On the contrary, NewLaw favors a
distributed approach to firm structure. NewLaw firms may not have central offices, meaning attorneys can live, work, and practice from anywhere. NewLaw is remote-work friendly, which means that firms can hire the best fit for the job, no matter where they’re located. 

They can ensure that everyone on the payroll is as close to 100% utilization as possible by hiring freelance attorneys as needed to tackle large-scale matters. Lean law firms can also leverage new tools like clerks on demand that provide flexibility in staffing and resource management. 

2.Culture built around balance

Big Law approach:
At Big Law firms, work-life balance isn’t a priority. In fact, working all of the time is seen as a badge of honor. Partners tend to interpret a desire for work-life balance as a lack of dedication to the firm.

NewLaw approach
Agile NewLaw firms value work-life balance. They uphold a workplace culture that supports flexibility. NewLaw is a good fit for attorneys who want to work to live, and not live to work.

3.Values that prioritize efficiency



Big Law approach:
As GC and ABA Journal columnist Jeff Carr
wrote, “lawyers, being lawyers, love to ‘complexify’ things. In part, that’s because we make money from complexity. In part because the complexification process shrouds what we do in mystery and fosters the need for even more of our services.” 

As this sentiment summarizes, Big Law firms value prestige, complexity, and mystery. They prioritize high fees over
efficiency. They pay for expensive offices in fancy buildings to impress clients and justify their astronomical legal fees. They use overly complicated documentation and processes to communicate with clients.

NewLaw approach
NewLaw firms, on the other hand, value efficiency, simplicity, and transparency. Like Big Law firms, they’re also focused on winning cases and doing great work, but without the unnecessary, expensive ceremony associated with the traditional approach.

When firms use their money economically, it indicates to clients that their money is also being used efficiently. Plus, transparency builds trust and attracts clients. 

4.Business model that focuses on results

Big Law approach
Big Law firms traditionally bill hourly, which is a business model that focuses on time spent working rather than on results. This traditional approach to the legal profession prioritizes working hard over working efficiently.

Additionally, Big Law firms try to serve clients in all kinds of industries instead of specializing in a niche.

NewLaw approach:
Agile firms take new approaches to working with clients. They experiment with
alternative fee structures, like success fees, fixed fees, monthly retainers, recurring revenue models, and even the productization of services, to maximize impact. 

By working with success fees, for example, NewLaw firms demonstrate to clients that results are more important than how much time they put into legal matters. With alternative fee structures, NewLaw firms can increase profits because revenue isn’t tied to their time, which has a finite cap.

Furthermore, lean law firms tend to specialize in highly-profitable, high-demand areas of practice rather than trying to offer every service to everyone.

5.Enablers that promote flexibility

Big Law approach:
Traditional firms rely on clunky, expensive legal research tools that offer no flexibility. LexisNexis and Westlaw, for example, require
3-year minimum contracts.

Big Law tends to use local network software that can only be accessed at the office, making remote work nearly impossible.

NewLaw approach:
NewLaw favors tools and software that boosts productivity and allows the firm to collaborate no matter where attorneys are located. These firms use
cloud-based tools that can be accessed from anywhere. Legal project management software, like Matter365, is crucial to the success of a NewLaw firm’s flexibility. Video conferencing software is another popular tool that enables collaboration within agile law firms. 

The bottom line: Building a lean, agile law firm is the key to unlocking a more fulfilling practice 

 For years, the legal profession has been synonymous with a grueling lifestyle. Fortunately, NewLaw is ushering in an era of newfound flexibility and work-life balance. Managing change in a law practice can be challenging, but the results are oh so rewarding. When you adopt NewLaw principles at your firm, you’ll be able to live a more fulfilling life without compromising on a lucrative law career.

Matter365’s project management software for lawyers can help you unlock a more satisfying practice. Try it free for 30 days 

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