Over the past few years, we have seen more and more law firms drive differentiation through technology. Some legal firms are seizing the opportunity to achieve greater efficiency and competitive advantage by adopting the latest technology, but this is still far from industry standards.
Figures from PwC’s annual survey of UK law firms show that the average spend on legal technology as a percentage of fee income remains low at 0.5-0.9%. Still, research suggests “improving the use of technology” remains a top priority for legitimate businesses next year. As a result, law firms are keen to implement new digital solutions that support the legal function, but they are simply not investing the necessary resources.
There is one key driver for businesses adopting technology and adopting it as quickly as possible: customers expect it. In the list of the most important skills for law firms detailed in Thomson Reuters’ UK Legal Market 2022 report, the desire for companies to possess legal technology capabilities is second only to companies with a deep understanding of their business.
There is no time like now
Law firms that have been reluctant to fully embrace technology must now take their technology investments to the next level. The tide is turning, and the digital needs of customers are a key driver of change. The need for transparency and access to valuable information is greater than ever. Clients want to be able to come in and see what’s going on in their case. By providing customers with higher visibility, companies can build a higher level of trust with their customers.
Technology-oriented ABS (Alternative Business Solutions) organizations have shown a willingness to rapidly digitize processes and have successfully used more modern technologies to serve their clients.
While the overall scope of ABS Group is different from that of law firms, their presence in the industry with a technology-first mentality has forced the legal industry to embrace digital solutions or risk being left behind.
The growth of digital challenger banks such as Monzo has forced banks and financial service providers to a similar point of rethink over the past decade. These challenger banks have disrupted traditional banking, spurring customer interest in innovation, and in turn forcing existing providers to upgrade their digital offerings.
As law firms approach a similar juncture in digital transformation, they must learn from the experience of other industries to ensure they upgrade their offerings based on client needs.
To date, technology-adopting law firms have heavily deployed applications that automate existing word methods. While this saves costs and speeds up basic information processing tasks, it’s only the first step. Next, law firms must transform their traditional operating models, using technology and building digital solutions into their core offerings to clients.
To truly master digital products, companies must first clearly define current processes, agree on expected outcomes, and then match potential technological solutions. Once the expected outcomes of potential new solutions are clearly defined, the process of selecting the best technology is more straightforward. For example, many law firms may choose to focus on solutions first to reduce the workload of their legal experts, as certain manual tasks can hinder efficiency and prevent experts from doing more meaningful work.
To reduce the complexity and time allocation of certain tasks, technology solutions can focus on delivering automatically generated documentation, optimized analytics, faster legal research and innovative management systems to help streamline internal processes. This can help legal professionals free up time to focus on the specialized area of their responsibilities.
Even with clear technical goals, legal firms must focus on enabling seamless integration processes to deliver new solutions quickly. Even the best digital applications can become a burden if the development and implementation process takes longer than necessary.
The ease of adopting the new technology should also be considered. It is critical that any new solution fits seamlessly into the company’s technology stack. Key stakeholders and partners must believe in its value, and it must be widely adopted across the company to drive scalability and achieve ROI.
Speed and Scalability and Security
To meet these new demands, law firms need to accelerate their pace of development and find new agile ways of working.
No-code technologies—using drag-and-drop reusable components to build complex applications, automation, and integration—enable organizations to rapidly scale solutions and respond to demand with speed and agility. This enables law firms to streamline technology assets and business processes without making significant investments in new proprietary software.
Enterprises can use the component library to allow developers to quickly accelerate the construction and deployment of projects, and quickly solve specific business problems. When leveraging the benefits of no-code, companies can develop new applications at a fraction of the cost of traditional software development.
It all comes down to embracing change
We are now in an era where clients and clients are demanding fast and efficient digital journeys, and the legal profession is no exception. To embrace today’s digital environment, law firms need to truly own their technology infrastructure and look for technology solutions to streamline processes and deliver more benefits to clients.
Mat Rule is the CEO and founder of Toca, a no-code enterprise development platform.