Digital is Changing the Legal Sector
Our lives today are dominated by a plethora of digital technologies. This creates challenges, particularly for the legal sector.
People expect digital technology not only when buying products or services, but also in the workplace. The reality is that the legal industry is already changing, and law firms are starting to lose out.
To capture the best talent and maintain their client base, law firms are going to need to meet the digital expectations of the modern world. Whilst it comes with challenges, there are many benefits to going digital.
Many law firms are already implementing digital changes, which is helping to streamline their processes and improve communication both internally and externally.
This blog will outline some of these beneficial changes to the legal sector, which include reducing operating costs, digitising documentation for easier access and implementing augmented reality.
Implementing technology to digitise documentation
Depositions, pleadings, contracts, record collection and case-work generate huge quantities of documentation that is still largely paper-based. These mountains of paper are underutilised, slow down tasks and take up space. It was found that most companies spend upwards on 3% of their total annual revenue on printing.
Case management software is purpose-built to allow client information to be accessed from one place. This is a critical aspect of making effective use of digitised documentation and fully transitioning to cloud-enabled and digital workflows. This includes platforms like Clio, PracticePanther, MyCase, and Legal Files.
These are all specialised for different types of legal services, company sizes and cloud-enabled or on-premise use. Bringing in specialists who can advise you on the specifics will help you make the right decision.
Some of these platforms also bring with them internal analytics capabilities. The performance of individual lawyers and caseworkers can be tracked according to any number of metrics. Recent case outcomes can be analysed to make better decisions about the types of cases to take and which lawyers to assign to different types of clients.
Attrition rates can be tracked, and certain individuals and teams can be benchmarked against particular performance outcomes. Alert functions make sure that certain people are always notified whenever anyone within the firm takes on a case regarding particular subjects or industries. Greater collaboration is enabled, and it becomes more likely that your in-house expertise is distributed in the most effective way possible.
How information can be searched and used to aid cases with technology
Anyone accustomed to doing research online understands the power of ‘ctrl+F’ as a shortcut to review any page or document. It provides a customisable and automated index, removing the need to read through reams of text to find relevant information. You can identify the valuable sections using keyword searches and then work backwards to contextualise that information.
Digitising archives and case records brings this power to legal discovery. Individual lawyers will be able to rapidly search for names, companies, clauses, monetary values, an address, bank accounts and much more in the blink of an eye. Discovery tasks that would have once taken days can be reduced to minutes.
Digitally augmented communication
A few law firms have deployed Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology to augment client engagement and team communication. Virtual courtrooms can be created to prepare junior staff for challenging cases. In trial, VR has been used to put jurors in the same room as individuals giving depositions. The applications for VR are only growing, and all that is really needed to access the technology is robust IT infrastructure.
Mobile devices connect lawyers to each other and clients. 90% of lawyers already use smartphones, and law firms are missing out by not enabling lawyers to officially integrate this technology with their practice. This comes back to enabling cloud access and mobile collaboration services. However, there are a number of other smartphone attributes that law firms should be aware of that are independent of case files. Smartphones can be used to track billable hours and engage in video conferencing. They can also sync with tools like Slack to enable easy people management and team collaboration.
Digital is already here, law firms need to respond
Whether striking it out alone, or working in partnership, law firms sit at a tipping point. They can either embrace the transformative power of technology to improve workflows, team collaboration and client communication, or attempt to insulate themselves from the changing outside world.
The reality, however, is that clients are driving a change that is no longer fully in the hands of law firms. Despite flat to negative growth in demand for law firm services since 2008, corporate clients have continued to increase their overall legal spend. The irony is that an ever-growing demand for legal services is pushing clients to find more efficient solutions than those on offer by traditional law firms. This has meant an investment in in-house legal firms along with the rise of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) — many of which are enabled by digital technology
Law firms enabled by digital technology will benefit from this transformation. Those that are not will lose out. To avoid disaster while undertaking change, you need to be honest about your in-house capabilities and seek external IT partners where needed. Retaining a focus on outcome-oriented investments is the key to building the digital law firm of the future. Get planning and good luck!