Norma Harris* Digital evolution has been rapid in the last decade. It has been triggering transformation across industries, changing their very model, building new standards for output quality, and drastically altering the competitive landscape. The legal world, too, along with the legal support services industry has been no exception. Albeit, slower when compared to other industries, it has been / is seeing its fair share of digital transformation.
Its uses and relevance, after all, are many. Increasing efficiency by many folds, a wide array of legal tools are being used by legal bodies at various stages of their cases to help with research, assess relevant stakeholders, assist with quality case building management and access databases.
Further, even as regulatory changes sweep across the map, the availability of tools are facilitating quick adaptation to the necessary socio-political changes.
Technological advancements in law firms:
Cloud computing technology and data security: With increased internet speeds and top-notch data security software, cloud computing has become the norm for professional collaboration. It facilitates the sharing of documents, databases, emails, research materials, and multimedia with remarkable ease, increasing the flexibility of teams working on cases across geographic locations.
Cloud computing service providers have been providing state-of-the-art features that automatically back-up data into the cloud for swift safekeeping. With best-in-class storage features, cloud providers are also using the latest encryption technology to encrypt user data for uncompromised protection and security.
Automation of legal processes: Automation in legal processes have come as a big boon to lawyers, and attorneys, and legal support service providers. Automation tools, such as case management software, sometimes eradicate, partially, or completely, the need for lawyers to manually carry out basic process work in some cases.
Using case management software,s like Clio, MyCase, CARET Legal (Zola Suite), Amberlo, Smokeball etc, law firms and attorneys to complete such low-value work results in more fruitful use of a lawyer’s skills as opposed to having them waste time carrying out time-consuming tasks that a digital assistant can more efficiently carry out.
By prioritizing tasks, these digital can structure their case progressions, keep digital records thereby doing away with manual entries, ensuring real-time updates and centralized access for heightened productivity, and faster resolution of open issues.
These help lawyers use their hours more productively to strategize and prepare win notes for their cases. interfaces have been carrying out the early stages of case-checking, managing monetary matters, setting reminders, verifying and handling contracts, and more.
Artificial Intelligence and predictive analytics: Artificial intelligence (AI) is being increasingly used by many high-tech legal firms to assess past trends and predict the possible outcome of a case. AI, along with predictive analytics assess previous cases, precedents, judgements and orders rulings, data, and socio-political changes to predict litigation outcomes, future risk, and legal cost spending.
Already popular in the litigation space, predictive analytics promises to be a game-changer in the near future with the increased use of technology.
Collaboration tools and project management software: Another set of software that assists with daily tasks but modified to increase team output, efficiency, and communication are collaboration tools and project management software.
While the former makes sending files, holding meetings on online forums, and team messaging easier, the latter helps segregate and categorize cases, and manage all the necessary details like client information, research, case information and more.
Virtual Legal Assistants (VLAs): VLAs are chatbots that use semantic and deep learning to assist lawyers in their day-to-day repetitive tasks. Much like human assistants, VLAs also observe behavior, listen to conversations, and they use artificial intelligence to build patterns and maintain data models.
Soon, they are able to predict and recommend actions to repetitive tasks and frequently asked internal legal questions, improving average response times and thereby helping law firms and attorneys to improve efficiency and their client responsiveness.
This in turn helps them with faster resolution of cases and enables the firms to take up more cases and, in due course, replace human assistants and incidence of manual errors.
Legal firms, departments, and legal support service providers have been transitioning to a number of digital tools for better efficiency and productivity. A few popular ones include:
1. E-Discovery – A response to the request for identification and production of electronically stored data in a lawsuit or investigation that drastically hastens the process of procuring digitally-stored information and evidence, such as documents, social media presence, audio and video files, and more.
2. EDRM – A technological system responsible for the safekeeping, evaluating, and producing of electronically stored information (ESI). It includes identification of ESI, protection against modification and malpractice, gathering of ESI for its processing, analyzing and producing, and presenting the data to the necessary audience.
3. Case management software – that strengthens security around the storage of the information collected for a particular case, as well as to create a user-friendly resource to access relevant details.
The software provides a singular location to store all case-based data, client details, and financial matters, including billing, notes, and more. Such software analyses important data from each case in minutes, manage personal schedules, including reminders, and evaluate and visualize trends to assist lawyers and paralegals.
Competitive advantages for law firms that technology brings
Existing and emerging technologies are presenting a world of opportunities to law firms, legal departments, legal support services industry, aiding them in reimagining their business models and driving significant efficiency into their everyday processes.
Through automation tools and other digital levers, firms are able to improve research, minimize risks, optimize resource utilization and productivity, and ensure higher accountability and transparency.
These result in better performance, higher win rates, and increased brand value in legal circles. In addition, law firms that are more prepared and adept at leveraging new-world technologies have higher chances of gaining a competitive advantage.
Challenges in adopting and implementing technology in law firms:
Despite the many advantages of technology, adoption reluctance abounds in the legal world owing to a whole range of concerns, including:
- Fear of change and the resultant disruption
- High costs involved in transitioning to automated systems
- Transition glitches and integration with existing systems and processes
- Concerns over privacy protection and data security
- Time taken to upgrade technological understanding and upskill to use the tools to their maximum potential
Begin the digital journey slowly and steadily
In a fast-changing landscape, digital adoption is no longer an option. It is an imperative. That said, it is important for law firms and the legal support services industry to embark on the road to digital transition steadily such that the tech tools are fully embedded and seamlessly deployed across their legal processes.
Firms will have to draw up empathetic and human-centered technology strategies to make their tech goals real and achievable. They will also have to define and delineate human and tech roles for sustainable and productive adoption.
Norma Harris is a Senior Legal Associate at Cogneesol. She is an experienced legal practitioner who provides insights on legal topics including the latest trends in legal technology. She may be contacted via Twitter.