As the legal market continues to evolve, consultants have emerged as a key resource for addressing the challenges faced by law firms. Consultant engagements have also evolved, and law firm executives are not the only ones seeking help from legal consultants. In fact, 30-40 percent of consultant engagements are now initiated by stakeholders outside of the C-suite. This is dramatically different from 10 years ago, when consultants were mainly brought on by the executive team.
Today, law firms are leveraging consultants to help generate the support and necessary buy-in to move forward with new technology investments and strategic changes. To address firms’ needs and challenges in the law library space, Matt Sunderman, managing director and practice group leader for HBR’s Global Strategic Sourcing and Business Optimization Practice, participated in a panel at the AALL Conference titled “Partnering with Consultants: New Ways to Accomplish More.” Along with other law library stakeholders and consultants, Matt covered burning questions, such as how to successfully select and work with consultants, when you should and should not consider consultants, and what to do when you are not at the decision making table to select the consulting firm. Here are four considerations when bringing on consultants:
- Organizations should consider hiring a consultant when dealing with internal bandwidth restraints, when working on a short timeframe, or when undergoing major changes, such as a merger or new leadership.
- When selecting consultants, it is critical that firms do their due diligence and vet a number of firms before making a decision. Make sure the consultants you bring on have relevant experience and principles that align with your firm’s overall goals.
- Once you have vetted and selected a consultant, establish a project plan and decide on KPIs. Maintaining trust and open communication are essential factors for any successful partnership, but especially when bringing on a third party to help make firm-wide decisions.
- For law firms concerned about the costs associated with hiring a consultant, try to be creative. For example, look to see if you can shift some expenses (e.g., reduce loose-leaf costs) in order to invest in consultants and other special projects.
- Consultants can also step in when firms experience a leadership change in the C-suite or within practice areas. Outside perspective can provide firms with insight on best practices and help validate roadmaps. Similarly, when firms are going through a major transformation or downsizing, it also makes sense to bring in a consultant to streamline the process.
With a well-defined plan and solid communication strategy, law firms can foster successful partnerships with their consultants. When seeking external subject matter expertise, it is essential to be transparent and approach partnerships with an open mind. Establishing a collaborative workstyle will also ensure that project goals are achieved.