The one thing that has forced change upon the legal profession and the legal technology world has been the pandemic.
The law, after all, is one of the most conservative businesses in the world, filled with risk-averse practitioners. Legal technology itself can act as a potential threat, rather than partner in the growth of their legal business.
However COVID-19 has created the legal tech change necessary to bring what Everlaw co-founder A J Shankar called the ‘legal laggards’.
The pandemic changed everything for law firms, along with everyone else. Along came greater use of videoconferencing, digital documents, e-filing and more.
Cloud-based company Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report released in early October found that 85 per cent of responding firms are using software to manage their practice, 79 per centstore data in the cloud and 83 per cent hold virtual meetings with clients.
Shankar’s view is that the transformation occurring now will forever change the legal profession and lead to greater efficiencies, greater security and better client service.
He recommends 3 key steps towards making digital transformation for law firms painless.
Step 1 – Culture Change
“The most important thing for digital transformation efforts to succeed is change management — creating a technology-embracing environment among staff for the legal tech changes that are coming.”
Shankar says this entails articulating what specific benefits the technology will bring and getting buy-in, not just from IT but from the top executives on down. In addition to the productivity, efficiency and cost savings technology can provide, legal teams will be able to promote greater transparency and convenience to clients, and employee quality of life benefits too.
He emphasizes the need to prioritize technologies that will solve the major “pain points” and develop a case as to why change if needed, together with a success plan to measure the success.
Step 2 – Focus on User Experience
Lack of familiarity of new legal technology and its ease of use are the most common impediments to the adoption of legaltech (or any tech)
“Before choosing new technology, get an understanding of the needs and wants of clients and employees. IT teams should get feedback from all stakeholders and pay attention to the level of tech experience people have. Dedicate time for trainings so people feel empowered instead of overwhelmed. Hire or designate a program manager to focus on the technology projects, and recruit tech champions who can mentor others on their technology journeys.”
Keeping sensitive information and data confidential is key for lawyers and ensuring that privacy and security is foremost and top of mind is key to law firm technology adoption.
Law firms need to protect against data breaches, ransomware, phishing attacks and other cyberthreats by using solutions that offer strong encryption, intrusion detection and response, data loss and prevention, identity access and records management and policy-based controls.
Choosing the right legal technology involves tools that offer strong security for things like case management, eDiscovery, client service chatbots and AI-based tech-assisted review.
“For more general office productivity functions, consider outsourcing to cloud providers that offer highly encrypted services and reliable uptime,” he says.
Legal Technology ‘Leg Up’ for Law Firms
Legal technology is fast-developing and it also allows smaller firms and sole practitioners that can let them compete with the Big Law and boutique firms, providing access to a range of legaltech tools like research, processing, security and much more required in the current, competitive legal market.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced law firms to deal with the technology trends that continue to arrive at their shore, like it or not.