Head of Marketing & Communication
It’s 31st December 2029…as you sit there with your feet up, watching your 80”, 12k, super-duper HD telly, you ponder about the success you’ve had over the last 10 years. You think about how things would have panned out had you not embraced and introduced new technology into your business when you did. You transformed your once archaic business into a forward-thinking, figurehead in your industry.
Looking back to the year 2020, you begin to smirk at how astute your planning was. You could even go as far as to say you feel a little smug! And why not? You made the smart choice. Spending time with your family like this has become the norm because you and many lawyers like you now work from where you choose because technology has granted you the option to do so. Coupled with Courts having largely moved online. Evidence and arguments are being submitted to sheriffs through a new form of ultra-secure electronic communication. Diagnostics systems have been set up to guide people through their legal options, how to assemble evidence and provide alternative ways for dispute resolution, is now the make-up of a new digital legal society.
Ok, so that might be a bit of a stretch. You’ve probably heard tales like this before, right? Perhaps, this is the future that legal technologists might envisage. But we all know the reality is more than likely quite different. So, what does the future of legal tech look like?
Transformation and Automation
Transformation is a delicate term. It implies change in such a wholesale fashion that things can never return to what they once were. It’s happening in the legal sector and we all know it.
Automation is a given when it comes to legal tech. It’s about removing, replacing or simplifying the boring repetitive tasks so that you have more time to focus on adding real value to your clients.
In this high-tech world, you need to find the tech company that will help you transform your practice for the better. We all know that client expectations have changed and there are relentless demands to be more efficient and deliver the highest standard of customer service. Whether you are a lawyer, paralegal, secretary or law firm leader, your work involves finding and synthesizing relevant information more quickly. This is a problem that must be addressed because the pressure from clients will not be easing up over the coming years.
Does more tech mean our jobs are being taken over by robots?
People will always want to deal with people. The personal relationship between client and lawyer is absolutely fundamental to any good practice. Firm communications with clients still made up the bulk of complaints received. People want to hear from their lawyers more – not less. Keeping clients informed, setting up well contracted business terms, etc are constantly flowing tirades that plague the legal profession. Technology does not exist to replace the lawyer in this process, it is there to play a significant role in resolving such issues for firms.
When we adopt technology to eliminate most of the menial, administrative tasks, we will see a proliferation of small to medium sized firms and sole practitioners focused on delivering value to clients. Lawyers will have more time to pursue specialised legal work, which is often an important differentiator for smaller firms. We can confidently predict that the increase in more tailored versions of practice management tools, for example, will break down barriers for lawyers to launch more practices.
Over the last decade software has been performing tasks previously done by hand.
We are getting there. So much so, that nowadays, we often take for granted automated tasks precisely because we no longer have to concern ourselves with doing them manually.
2020 – 2029
Looking to this coming decade the phenomenon of technology automating manual tasks is only going to accelerate, but there is no need to fear that this is going to result in some sort of dystopian future. Although technology is taking over many aspects of lawyers’ jobs, automated tools are adept at rescuing lawyers from low-level and repetitive tasks, such as document management, contract review, filing, management reporting, and accounting, which bear little connection to law practice but increasingly consume much of lawyers’ time. In fact, in a recent survey of over 500 lawyers, more than 50 percent of the respondents ranked administrative or practice management tasks as the top activities eating up the majority of non-billable work hours.
The rise of machine learning and other artificial intelligence technologies means that lawyers can shift their focus from grunt work to the meaningful practice of law. Instead of paper pushing, lawyers can now perform work that clients truly value, i.e., the work of the intellect. In effect, automation is not eliminating jobs, but reallocating time to allow lawyers to engage in the analytical, creative, and strategic parts of legal practice.
There’s so much chatter about automation, workflows, AI, blockchain, Big Data and the prerequisite that tech should almost “do it all” on your behalf – no need to think, it just does.
It’s true, legal tech is developed and designed to remove unnecessary manual tasks in the daily working life of a solicitor, that’s not up for debate. However, the only way it is going to do what you need it to do, is for you to treat it like your best friend. It must become the essential part of how you operate your business.
“As technology continues to increase our possibilities, what we’re seeing is a shrinking of the lag time between what we wish we could achieve and what we can create. The combination of human skills with technology will always be at the root of any solution to the future of your business. As more legal professionals devote more time to embracing tech and mentoring their teams, they will sow the seeds of a future workforce capable of using it to stay ahead of the pack”.
This decade, tech is the “new normal”
To survive in the new legal reset, the “new normal”, firms need to be even smarter about their technology decisions. Those technologies must be coupled with elements from people and process.
Many law firms are now investing heavily in legal technology. They are also, in most cases reluctantly, adding a digital marketing line into their P&L. These are steps in the right direction, but guidance is required to make the right choices to ensure the cash you choose to spend is being spent wisely.
As a lawyer it’s not your job to get ‘under the bonnet’ of legal tech. You shouldn’t need to. The technical jargon being spun by many providers is all deemed to be smoke and mirrors by most. How can practitioners be expected to best assess the various digital solutions for providing legal services? Let’s be honest, it is difficult to navigate your way around the tech landscape, let alone assess the risks and opportunities posed to the future of legal regulation and the internal workings of law firms. When choosing a technology partner for their firm there are some questions the lawyer needs to ask:
- Does their technology solve my problems? If you are not convinced – then it’s probably not right for you.
- Can I work with them? If you feel that the relationship is not right, then you will regret working with them.
- How committed are they to our success? Any tech partner should be ensuring that their legal clients know how to use the technology to their best advantage, and they should be at the cutting edge of relevant technologies.
The future is all about integration – really?
Some tech providers will suggest that integration is the future. By integration they mean taking disparate systems and creating a way to make them talk to each other. Fair enough, but do you have time to waste on switching between various apps and technologies that were not built to work together?
The future of how you manage your practice lies in having everything you need in one place. Collaborating with a team of experts who support you 100% of the way as you navigate your way through the process of learning how the tech can work for you.
With Denovo’s new suite of software, CaseLoad, the future has arrived early, and it really is a game changer for law firms in the UK. With significant investment in time spent with lawyers and law firms across the UK finding out exactly what they need, Denovo are continually tailoring their product and improving your workflows. Better yet, with Caseload, you have all the features needed to manage your entire practice in one easy to use application. You have never had the benefit of an all-encompassing practice management software until now.
Taking your firm into the 2020s digital age is not an option you can deliberate on, it’s a necessity, and this decade is all about making technology work for you.
Ultimately, you will get to a point where you stop thinking that you need to keep innovating and start thinking more fundamentally. Organisations like Denovo are doing the innovating. It’s time for you to concentrate on answering a few simple questions; What’s the value you bring as lawyers, as a team, as a business? Can you deliver that value in new ways?
Though law firms have historically had a reputation of being slow-moving to make transformational change, we’re sure you’ll agree, in this decade they will – or die. Their clients are giving the lead. Just look at the rise in expectation, from a Gen X (your future clients) population, digitally savvy and craving instant info, digital interaction, educational data and constant learning. How can you meet their expectations if not through technology?
You have to take that step forward now and reach that audience before they leave you staring at your notebook. This is already happening. Be the leading law firm and let the competition do the catching up.
Now is the time to transform your business and make introducing smart legal tech a future memory you can be proud of.