Digital Transformation for Law Firms
Digital transformation is critical to the future of legal services. Every industry is undergoing a digital revolution, law firms need to keep pace with the expectations of the modern world.
The reality is that the opportunities for law firms are even greater than those available to most businesses. Digital technology has the ability to fundamentally transform the delivery of legal services, the day-to-day jobs of many lawyers and the flexibility experienced by others. Service quality can be improved and mass efficiencies gained.
Those that adapt first will reap substantial rewards. Markets across every industry are restructuring to account for shifting demands and expectations. Empowered by digital technology, lawyers can focus on adding value to clients through consultation and strategy development.
The risks of digital investment, however, are as significant as the rewards. Law firms have to balance security, compliance, transparency, customer interactions, workflows and productivity within a market that has zero tolerance for failure.
Nearly 70% of digital change initiatives fail to achieve their stated goals. To remove themselves from the statistics, law firms need to plan, focus on outcomes, find the right IT partners and embrace the cultural changes necessary to make any digital project a success. So how can this be achieved?
Digital transformation: the problem and the solution.
When approached right, digital transformation holds the keys to solving most of the logistical problems it creates. For example, high investment costs transform into long-term cost savings. Processes that seem complex at first actually deliver more centralised control and simpler management solutions. Digitising records poses security risks, but also enables the possibility of trackable and accountable file sharing with much higher levels of security than is possible using paper documents.
The problem that law firms face is threefold. First, they need to manage the technical challenges of procurement, installation and migration. Second, they have to master the cultural changes required to turn an IT investment into a meaningful outcome. Third, they must manage the technical maintenance and security of their new IT ecosystem.
Before getting started, however, it is critical that decision-makers understand the outcomes that are possible and the legal service solutions being made available by digital technology.
Digital technology is a tool, not an outcome.
What you want from any technology investment is an outcome. That could be a change in client interactions, team collaboration, the accuracy and speed of processes or a complete transformation in the day-to-day responsibilities of staff.
You should never invest in technology simply for the sake of the technology. Always think about how it is going to be used. Only by focusing on outcomes can the right investments be made and the necessary cultural change implemented. Remember, technology is simply a means to an end. It should never become the ‘end’ in and of itself.
The reality is that you need to look with detail at the possibilities that are available and the actual skill base of your existing teams. Always remember to invest in training, but be honest with yourself if you think that a particular investment is impractical. A lot of the technical aspects of maintenance can be outsourced to IT partners. This is a great solution for companies with little past IT experience. However, it is your existing staff that will have to make use of that technology in their day-to-day jobs.
Sometimes, you will need to consider new hires and department restructuring in order to actually transform your operations into a digitally enabled business. Make sure that those plans are put in place and executed before investing in IT infrastructure itself. If you can’t use your IT to deliver a tangible outcome, it will have been a waste of time and money.
What does digital transformation mean for your law firm?
Beyond changing customer demands, the next generation of lawyers will have different expectations about what work should be. Many people already make employment decisions based on their ability to use cloud applications to create a flexible working environment. In order to capture the best talent, law firms are going to need to meet the digital expectations of the modern workforce.
Digital technology is poised to disrupt and transform the legal industry. 80% of law firms identified IT investments as their top priority in 2018, and 23% were already undertaking digital transformation projects.
However, whole new swathes of competitors have entered the industry, many of which are already armed with digital tools. Digital technology is allowing smaller teams to deliver comparable services with less individual expertise. This is changing the nature of many roles in legal service and completely automating others. Tasks that would once take a team of skilled lawyers days or weeks to complete can be undertaken by machine learning algorithms in a matter of minutes. Initial case review can be done with an app, and case assignments can be based on metrics oriented review.
Digital transformation is changing what it means to be a lawyer and increasing the availability of legal services. Support costs are decreased and lawyers are able to conduct themselves more efficiently with greater independence.
The ability to use new workflows to offer faster and better services at more accessible prices creates huge market differentiation for the firms who are early adopters of new technology. Partners can enable firms with no existing IT experience to build and safely maintain even the most complex digital infrastructure. This is an option that any firm struggling to get started, or concerned about cybersecurity and maintenance risks should investigate. Either way, a focus on outcomes is critical.
This is a time of transformation. Law firms that focus on the opportunities will be the best prepared for the challenges to come. Building the digital law firm of the future today will help you be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. Start planning today!