Are You Really Ready For the Changing Work World? Hold On.

The workplace is becoming more and more virtual, with meetings occurring across time zones and organizations and with participants who barely know each other, working on swarms attacking rapidly emerging problems. But the employee will still have a “place” where they work. Many will have neither a company-provided physical office nor a desk, and their work will increasingly happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In this work environment, the lines between personal, professional, social and family matters, along with organization subjects, will disappear. Individuals, of course, need to manage the complexity created by overlapping demands, whether from the new world of work or from external (non-work-related) phenomena. Those that cannot manage the underlying “expectation and interrupt overloads” will suffer performance deficits as these overloads force individuals to operate in an over-stimulated (information-overload) state.

This is just one of the many observations brought to us by the new Gartner Report.

The greatest fear lawyers have is the commoditization of their work product because they have yet to fully understand the value they bring to their clients is their advice, counsel and advocacy.  Gartner supports this statement with the following:

The core value that people add is not in the processes that can be automated, but in non-routine processes, uniquely human, analytical or interactive contributions that result in words such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning. Non-routine skills are those we cannot automate. For example, we cannot automate the process of selling a life insurance policy to a skeptical buyer, but we can use automation tools to augment the selling process.

Your knowledge, analysis, counsel and advocacy cannot be automated.  Your time management, billing, backend operations and forms generation can. By recognizing the inherent necessity going forward of ‘value pricing’ your services rather than charging time for processes which can be automated, you will be pricing the value of your unique skills for consumption by the client. You will be satisfying the clients’ needs and freeing yourself from the stranglehold of the clock. The sooner you embrace this reality the sooner you can get fully entrenched in the 21st century practice of law and relinquish a very distressing and draining practice.

Learn how to create ‘swarms’ to get work done:

Swarming is a work style characterized by a flurry of collective activity by anyone and everyone conceivably available and able to add value. Gartner identifies two phenomena within the collective activity; Teaming (instead of solo performances) will be valued and rewarded more and occur more frequently and a new form of teaming, which Gartner calls swarming, to distinguish it from more historical teaming models, is emerging. Teams have historically consisted of people who have worked together before and who know each other reasonably well, often working in the same organization and for the same manager. Swarms form quickly, attacking a problem or opportunity and then quickly dissipating. Swarming is an agile response to an observed increase in ad hoc action requirements, as ad hoc activities continue to displace structured, bureaucratic situations.

Social Media is Swarm Central.

If you understand how critical social media is today and how even more important it will be tomorrow you will work even harder on establishing your social media presence  in order take advantage of this phenomenon known as ‘swarming’.  Swarming will be seen more in solo practice than ‘teaming’ because teaming is traditionally what one sees within an organization of static employees and usually under the direction of a ‘manager.’

If an opportunity presents itself which requires more hands on deck to complete the task, you will need and want to be able to ‘swarm.’  This does not necessitate you compromising professionalism or ethics or anything.  It is actually a very interesting phenomenon which allows you to find and work with the best support system you can for that particular client on that particular matter at that particular time. It is highly customized.

Imagine you have the opportunity to work a larger personal injury case.  As a solo it can be daunting as you are just one individual with more than one case but you know you are capable.  You are running a business and realize you need a particular type of team to work the case.  You’re comfortable taking the lead but need unique support which doesn’t require a previous ‘team’.  It requires immediate action, specific skills, people you’ve possibly worked with before and many you have not.  Chances are they are entrepreneurs and/or independent contractors like yourself. Of course, your first inclination is to refer out.  But now you have a chance to rethink this option.  Your social network will provide leads to those who can ‘swarm’ to help on this particular project, coming together for just this case and then moving on.

Weak Links Are Your Strength

And interestingly it will be the very people who can’t necessarily swarm with you for a particular matter who will lead you to those most capable.  These critical ‘weak links’ are provided by your networks, personal and professional and through social media channels.

In swarms, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. They are indirect indicators and rely, in part, on the confidence others have in their knowledge of people. Navigating one’s own personal, professional and social networks helps people develop and exploit both strong and weak links and that, in turn, will be crucial to surviving and exploiting swarms for business benefit.

Past Performance is NOT a predictor of Future Performance

The business world is becoming more volatile, affording people working off of linear models based on past performance far less visibility into the future than ever before.

This in many ways is self-explanatory. We live in volatile times where the only constant is disruption.  Working off of business models past will guarantee only one thing  – a solo practice which limps along or dies.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  We are now officially in unchartered waters.  We all have the tools available to us to survive.  Some have the ingenuity and hutspah to utilize these tools.

Are you one of these?  Have you already created swarms to get work done? Have you used a swarm to resolve a non-legal matter?  Please do share!

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