The Future of Law Firms: How Legal Tech Is Modernizing Traditional Practice
By embracing legal tech, firms are stepping into the future and preserving the integrity and success of their practices.
As another wave of COVID-19 ravages the U.S., forcing at-home work to extend even further, the legal industry continues to feel the disruption. As in any industry that relies on collaboration, communication and transparency, the pandemic has forced legal professionals to find new strategies to manage their work. Adding to these challenges, cyberattacks remain a looming threat. As guardians of clients’ personal and confidential information, legal professionals face an array of complex risks that can be difficult to navigate in such a volatile environment.
The good news is that legal tech programs can prove valuable in helping you manage and protect your law practice.
The Rise of Legal Tech and the Evolving Law Firm
Fueled by increasing investor interest and client demand, legal tech is on the rise. That is prompting a reassessment of everything from research, contract and case management to data security, intake, invoicing and more. Innovative legal tech works to increase accuracy and efficiency, allowing firms to improve workflow and capture new business. Efficient matter management, research, contract analysis and other services can boost productivity, providing a competitive advantage. For example, rather than sorting through mountains of paperwork with the risk of something being misplaced or missed, legal tech solutions can automate all sorts of lower-end, repetitive tasks. This leaves more time to focus on clients instead of spending potentially billable time on internal responsibilities. Notably, firms that fully leverage technology may actually see an increase in profitability at much higher rates than others since the pandemic began.
Simply, the traditional practice of law is rapidly modernizing.
Data Security Is Top Priority
Understandably, a major concern for law firms and legal professionals is data privacy and security. Amid a rapid digital transformation, along with the surge of remote and hybrid work, data breaches and cyberattacks are on the rise for both individuals and businesses. In particular, the legal community should not overlook the importance of digital security, especially as offices seek to adopt new technologies. At baseline, your security measures should include strong encryption and a secure way to share files to protect confidential or sensitive information.
Too often, businesses view digital security as inconvenient or even unnecessary. But it could only be a matter of time before a security mishap occurs, even if you’ve been practicing law for years without any incident. Lawyers have a duty to maintain client confidentiality and to maintain legal technology competence; at minimum, this includes safely securing, storing and sharing client information.
Ideally, you want to be prepared to prevent anything that could harm your firm and clients in the near and long term, upholding your ethical responsibilities and your reputation. There may also be serious liability insurance implications.
How to Know What Tech Works for You
Legal technology programs aren’t one-size-fits-all. Many, in fact, target specific practice pain points. Depending on your firm’s level of modernization or existing technology, certain solutions should take precedence to help you develop a solid foundation and make the most out of your investment in the shortest time. The key is to conduct a thorough assessment to define your exact needs.
Assessing new technology can be an extensive undertaking. So, it’s really important to ask the right questions about your work environment — now and in the future — to determine which tools will help you reach your goals most efficiently.
For example, questions like these will help you establish priorities and find the right product fit:
What percentage of your people are working remotely? Will this increase or decrease in the coming year?What core systems and technology does your firm provide that impact your work every day?Is workflow automation a part of your legal tech stack? (Workflow process mapping can reveal bottlenecks and areas where technology can help boost efficiency.)What digital security measures is your firm using now? (You want to ensure compatibility or see if you need to install or replace a program entirely.)Are outdated or slow methods being used for legal research? Where is there room for improvement?Does your information governance policy include a data map and a BYOD plan?How does your firm protect client privacy and share client files?
Knowing what your particular practice struggles with most can help you choose the best legal tech. In addition, make note of trends in the legal industry and your clients’ businesses, such as remote work. It makes sense to explore what the trends mean for the future of your business before making any big decisions.
Fortunately, even the most traditional firms can find programs that are easy to adopt and that address specific needs within budget. Whether solo practitioner, large firm or corporate legal department, it’s really important to ask the right questions before selecting a technology solution.
n Exciting Time to Leverage Legal Tech
Today there are more possibilities than ever to help modernize and protect your firm, and most companies offer good onboarding support and customer service. Legal tech and data security tech can significantly improve your law firm’s internal and external functions and help safeguard your practice and clients. Best of all, many new technology products are easy to implement, cost-effective, and can seamlessly integrate into your practice without sacrificing productivity.
Ben Ow is President and CTO of AXEL (@AXELUnlimited), a software company focused on decentralized data custody, privacy and security solutions. Josh Maley is CEO of Theorem (@TheoremLTS), a legal technology marketplace that helps law firms and corporate legal departments around the world discover solutions and achieve workflow-driven tech adoption.
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