Possible Futures of the Digital Law Firm
No industry can escape the ‘digital’ trend and the legal sector in particular needs to ensure it can keep up.
Everyone from supermarkets to apparel brands are embracing digital tools for customer communication, data analysis and service delivery. However, the legal sector has more to gain from the use of technology than most industries.
Digital technology can transform the legacy processes that slow down discovery, case review and litigation. Lawyers utilising digital tools are freed to focus on adding value to clients through consultation and strategy development. Access to these capabilities delivers a significant competitive advantage by reducing costs and improving service quality.
Parts of the industry are already changing. Alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) are at the cutting edge of digital adoptions, tools that they have used to break into the industry. In-house corporate legal teams are syphoning resources that were once the sole domain of mid-market law firms. The industry is becoming more competitive, making digital adoption critical to maintaining an edge.
How should the legal sector proceed?
Although this has created a scramble for change, law firms have to remember to proceed with caution. Case information is sensitive, and the strict timelines of court cases mean that downtime is unacceptable. Nearly 70% of digital change initiatives fail to achieve their stated goals. Proper precautions must be taken to ensure functional and secure IT systems are built. IT partners can help law firms master the technology learning curve and make the right investments from day one.
The reality, however, is that clients and staff alike are demanding a digital future. Our personal lives are dominated by digital devices. Any business that ignores these capabilities will be left behind. Law firms that have yet to begin investing in IT need to start now. That begins with understanding the possibilities on offer and what technology can deliver.
What digital change is possible?
It is difficult to fully quantify the limits of digital change. The capabilities are always evolving. However, this unclear future should not deter IT investments. Most digital technology delivers cumulative benefits, with each aspect building on the next to create a more powerful and interconnected solution. Digitising your records, for example, brings inherent benefits, but also enables remote access and the application of machine learning algorithms to fully automate certain tasks.
Robust IT infrastructure opens up possibilities for near countless applications now and in the future. Digital solutions increase access to information, generate new kinds of information, improve information sharing and information security. Every single aspect of that impacts how legal teams operate and their ability to deliver successful solutions.
What will be covered here is only the beginning of what is becoming possible. The groundwork, however, is clear. Changes are occurring that will not only deliver productivity improvements, but transform entire job descriptions and legal capabilities. To succeed, law firms need to understand these possibilities and embrace the changes required to obtain these critical outcomes enabled by technological change.
How the digital law firm could operate in the future
While this article has alluded to the many benefits law firms could receive from going digital, there are many specific processes that will save the legal sector time and money.
Some of these changes are really simple, like the ability to use the shortcut ‘ctrl+F’ while searching through case material. This might seems like a minor change, it can be a great tool for those doing online research as it allows you to review any page or document to find relevant information quickly. This can be accomplished by digitising archives and case records, which will help individual lawyers search for any keyword they need, including names, companies or addresses. Before this technology, discovery tasks would have taken days but they can now be completed in minutes.
Becoming cloud and digitally enabled opens up the possibility to engage with clients in a completely digital format. Firms like LegalZoom have led the way in capturing an expanding marketplace of individuals who want ad hoc legal services done simply, quickly and on a budget. Law firms that are connected can easily tap into this opportunity with dedicated teams or to flexibly allow individual lawyers to maximise their billable hours.
Some law firms have already started to implement Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology to augment team communication and client engagement. In order to prepare junior staff for more difficult cases, this technology can create virtual courtrooms. VR is becoming increasingly popular as all that is needed to deploy this technology is robust IT infrastructure.
Technology like mobile devices is allowing clients and lawyers to connect more easily. Smartphones are becoming a more common tool to utilise in the workplace, with 90% of lawyers already using smartphones. However, many law firms are not taking advantage of this technology by not enabling cloud access and mobile collaboration services. In addition to these benefits, smartphones can create a more efficient workplace with video conferencing tools, the ability to track billable hours and sync tools like Slack to help enable team collaboration.
Don’t let your law firm get left behind
Becoming digital is critical in today’s technological society, especially in a fast-paced and competitive industry. If your law firm isn’t ready to go digital, there’s an increasing chance that your company will be fall behind your competitors. Investing in partnerships with managed IT service firms can help you jump-start the digitisation process, no matter where you are right now.
While the idea of many possible digital futures is daunting, technology will streamline your company’s operations and help your firm to grow. Experienced partners can help you do that. Don’t get left behind. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to turn the challenge of digital transformation into an opportunity that will deliver a competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Good luck, get planning!