Businesses across sectors, industries and geographies are embracing the transformative power of technology as a means of improving performance and productivity. The legal industry is no exception, despite its perception of being a traditionally paper-based industry.
Law firms both big and small are recognising the growing need to adapt and embrace the concept of digital transformation to reach customers, streamline administration, speed up data collection, improve communication, make their operations more efficient and stay competitive with firms that have prioritised ‘going digital’. Legal tech – more aptly – is ‘transforming’ the legal sector, according to Verdict.
Despite the relatively slow digital transformation for legal firms – in comparison to other sectors – legal firms are and have always been ‘people-first’ companies. However, for those firms that still need inspiration on how to overcome the challenges of going digital, and understanding the importance of embracing change, this guide is here to help.
Many well-established companies in the legal sector still firmly believe in the ‘traditional’ way of doing things, which explains why the industry largely fell behind in modernising. Successful digital transformation means that any firm – regardless of sector or specialism – can find and implement new ways of working, thus changing the mentality of a workplace through technology.
Usually, there are a few upfront costs associated with buying new tools or software, but the long-term mentality shift that can be felt means that investment will pay off in a big way. However, it’s important to realise that digital transformation for a legal firm does not just mean buying tech – it’s a holistic, large-scale approach to ‘change with the times’, looking at the opportunities that exist through working digitally and more collaboratively.
For example, as more staff work remotely and firms connect with international clients, video conferencing tools have allowed companies to bridge those geographical gaps whilst not letting productivity slip. Additionally, solicitors from different firms may need to share confidential information through secure, cloud-based portals for the purposes of progressing a case, and it might not be feasible to do that in an office environment.
One of the most noteworthy examples of digital transformation is the widespread digitisation of documents and case files, and allowing signatures to be added electronically. Whether this is a tenancy agreement or a settlement in a personal injury case, the technology of eSignatures and digital case management software has transformed and modernised the way many law firms operate, not to mention improving the client experience.
In the context of law firms, leveraging technology can provide them with the following key benefits:
While some legal firms have been hesitant to adopt some technologies due to fears of disruption to their business operations, others have expressed concerns that technology could lower their earned income as it means that solicitors may not be able to spend as long on certain client files.
However, despite these minor concerns, the overall advantages outweigh the considerations; for example, a legal professional’s time can be spent on more high-value tasks like client onboarding, while repetitive admin can be entrusted to a computer.
Ultimately, every legal firm’s experiences and return on investment with technology will vary. While you don’t have to immediately abandon your legacy or incumbent processes, there are ways you can gradually make your firm more ‘digital’ and thus, more efficient.
One of the biggest advantages of automation and digital transformation is how it can liberate hardworking legal professionals from repetitive administration. Document management systems, case management software, eSignature tools (like DocuSign), and project and task management solutions can be incredibly helpful in helping your firm become more productive and strategic. Start by making some small, incremental changes to specific time-consuming tasks to see how many hours that saves your firm.
Digital transformation enables law firms to collect and analyse data more effectively, leading to informed decision-making and improved client service. Analytics tools can help them identify patterns, trends and performance indicators, which can be aggregated and used to influence a firm’s crucial decisions.
Legal firms are entirely dependent on communication, and digital transformation allows them to streamline and enhance that internally and externally. Video conferencing and cloud-based platforms that offer secure file-sharing platforms encourage more regular and open communication and collaboration. Simultaneously, this can improve overall productivity within the firm and lead to improved client relationships, as well as faster resolution times.
Digital transformation allows law firms to manage their workforce as well as their clients and cases. Platforms allow managers to delegate and allocate tasks or projects, track time, and monitor the progress of cases. Many project management tools have built-in time tracking applications so firms can capture billable hours with ease, not to mention administer invoices and reports quickly.
Some project management solutions may require some training and practice, but many solutions on the market provide plenty of reliable, round-the-clock support and e-learning modules so companies can stay abreast of any trends or developments.
The digital transformation process undoubtedly presents a fair share of challenges as well as opportunities for law firms. While there might be resistance from some that are unwilling to alter the way they work, there may be others that are constrained by restrictive budgets, not to mention those that express privacy and security concerns with moving to the digital realm.
However, law firms that embrace digital transformation can successfully shed the limitations of paper-based practices and reap the benefits in the short and long term. Modernising operations and leveraging technology effectively is not without obstacles, but the firms that can manage that successfully can position themselves as leaders and trendsetters in a world that is only growing in its reliance on technology.