Written by:

Grant Yuill

Head of Marketing & Customer Engagement

Following on from our part 1 of our tech trends insights article, I have listed 5 more of the top trends that will shape legal practices in both 2021 and beyond.

One thing that is crystal clear is that today’s most important tech trends will play a big part in helping us cope with and adapt to the many challenges facing us. From the shift to working from home to new rules about how we meet and interact in public spaces, tech trends will be the driving force in managing the change as we move into the new year.

6. E-signature

E-signature software is key to working with clients that you perhaps never (or govt restrictions permitting – can’t) meet in person. With electronic signature technology, like DocuSign, your law firm is guaranteed to save human time and prevent hundreds of hours of hassle and waiting. Furthermore, multiple signatures can be obtained with ease and in minimal time, thereby streamlining your legal and administrative processes. There are also no paper printouts, that means a low risk of compromising client data. In fact, your client’s documents are saved on the cloud, so you can access them securely whenever required.

7. The virtual law firm

I would define a virtual law firm as a law firm that has implemented a business model which has moved away from the traditional bricks and mortar approach, where all the firm’s services, capabilities, and labour force would generally be based in one place (or more, if there were multiple offices), to a more dispersed model where the firm’s services, capabilities, and manpower may be based in multiple places and/or outsourced to third parties. For example, the firm may have outsourced their Cashroom services functions to the likes of Denovo, or they may have given up renting office space in favour of a virtual office setup, whereby the firm does not have an office but has a mailbox and the capacity to meet clients, where necessary, or they may have ceased employing solicitors and moved to a model where they engage consultants as and when necessary to undertake certain work.

The important point to note, however, is that there is no one size fits all definition of a virtual law firm – the model is fluid and has a pick and mix approach: some firms may still have a bricks and mortar office but engage consultants and outsource some services, others may have a virtual office model but engage their solicitors on an employer-employee relationship.

What you will need to set up a virtual office are:

  • a virtual office location (or multiple locations);
  • a virtual assistant or call centre;
  • a VOIP telephone system;
  • a case management (ideally cloud-based);
  • a knowledge base like Hey Legal;
  • a legal accounts system (ideally cloud-based); and
  • a cost-effective marketing strategy.

8. Greater focus on lead nurturing & relationship management

One of the opportunities I see lawyers miss time and again is failing to market to their existing “client base”. When we speak to law firms, each one claims to have “thousands of clients, and that’s great in principal. “Great”, we say. “How do you market to them?” – blank stares all round… again!

Nowadays, relying on the strength of loyalty from the traditional client-solicitor relationship is short sighted. Granted, there are some areas where a trusted provider will maintain a relationship with their client (crime and commercial law seem two obvious examples) and word of mouth will still be huge (and your online presence is a massive part of that), but for most modern web users using legal services throughout their lives, their journey will take them from specialist to specialist.

Injured at work? Search for a specialist workplace injury lawyer. Moving house? Search for a solicitor in the local area. Moving again? Do likewise. Been offered a Settlement Agreement? Search for “settlement agreements lawyers in…”

Clearly, establishing a web presence to capture these terms is vital, but what is even more important is maintaining the relationship once it’s made. Simply relying on your ‘client’ to decide to return to your firm the next time they need a lawyer is naïve.

In 2021, lawyers will realise the benefit of targeting existing clients and begin proactively cross-selling their services using “demand generation” platforms through providers such as Moore legal Technology. These platforms are designed to nurture leads over a period of time to bring in repeat business. Mainly driven by email, these platforms are more sophisticated than typical email newsletters. Drip-fed emails, with different emails sent depending on the prospect’s level of interaction with each missive, allow targeted, specific and long term nurturing of leads. Not only that, but these platforms ‘score’ prospects based on what they do on your site and (here’s the beautiful part) let YOU contact THEM when they might be ready to buy.

Once you start getting those all-important enquiries, CaseLoad’s Leads Management feature lets you nurture the potential client by giving you email import, document production and data collection. Before converting that enquiry to a client which transfers all information over to the new client and matter within the case management system. And finally, the fee earner can measure the status of leads from your KPI dashboard, showing types of enquiries and what business is being won and lost.

9. The rise of virtual legal assistants

It’s been reported that by 2023, virtual legal assistants (VLAs) will field 25% of internal requests to law firms, increasing operational capacity for fee earners and support staff.

Legal departments need to automate where possible to improve efficiency and lower response time. The technology marketplace is filled with solutions to replace human resources, but these tools cannot automatically accommodate a given firms unique legal requirements or workflows. Law firm leaders must consider the specific operational capabilities they want to improve when evaluating technology opportunities.

10. CPD done differently

You know how important CPD is in ensuring you maintain and enhance the knowledge and skills you need to deliver a professional service to your customers, clients and the community. However, we also know lawyers find ongoing learning challenging to do. Modern life is busy (even during a pandemic!), and it can be hard to find time to dedicate to development. 

Hey Legal look to inspire new ideas and thinking in law firms. They are reimagining learning for lawyers. The platform is designed to change the status quo by creating a mobile-first education platform, offering CPD and everyday learning to lawyers. Providing the convenience factor that aims to encourage anyone in the legal profession to do more than the minimal required CPD hours and participate in engaged daily learning through choice. 

You can access courses through the Hey Legal mobile site which is designed to be used on-the-go.

With audio and digital becoming an ever more powerful medium for learning, you need the ability to listen/watch while doing other things – commuting, waiting at court, at the gym or walking the dog. The ability to just hit play, any time, allows you to start thinking deeply about topics that intrigue you and will make you a better lawyer.

Moreover, the costs that firms have incurred over the years attending physical and virtual events and seminars is astronomical. With a heavier investment in tech required as we move into 2021, you need to look at how to create ways for your busy team to learn more in an affordable, convenient way, without disrupting your day.

How to prepare for the Legal Tech market changes?

While the aforementioned information will help you to understand the present and future state of tech trends, there are two more essential ingredients to make a successful transition into using more of the right tech. So, let’s wrap up this article focusing on the two, which are as follows –

1. Identifying the challenges and opportunities

To get the best perks of considering any new legal tech, it is important to know why you need them. That implies, it is required to have a clear understanding of what challenges you are facing with the traditional business processes, what opportunities you are missing out, and how the legal technologies can be the right solutions. Something that can be figured out by discussing your business model with your team and tech provider, doing an extensive market and competitor analysis, and pondering on the vision and mission of your firm.

2. Partnering with the RIGHT legal tech provider

Though a wide range of technology solutions providers have shown the potential to create amazing tech for legal firms, not all are the best option to go with. This is because every legal project requires a different skill set and experience.

When finding an answer to planning your law firms tech future, it is a must to consider the providers experience, team size, location, portfolio, tech stack, support and advice they can provide and other such factors. 

Next steps

It is no longer a debate if the legal industry is growing or not, and if the technology is needed for stability and comfort. Hosting all your data on the cloud, cybersecurity, mobile apps, performance tracking and analytics, e-signature, lead nurturing, etc, are some of the trends to watch out for.

Not using Denovo to manage and grow your business in 2021? Get a free demo and see why some of the most successful small to medium sized law firms use Denovo – not only as their whole practice management software solution, but as a sounding board for legal tech advice.

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