In the world of law, competition is fierce. Legal firms find themselves in ongoing battles to see who can land the most clients. The only way lawyers can feasibly win more clients is if they are utilizing legal technology. Legal Tech can help give lawyers a one-up on the competition while simultaneously cutting down on “busy work” and eliminating areas of inefficiency.
Let’s look at some of the most common legal tech tools that we believe provide the best value for law firms. We see these technologies as top-of-the-line, the ones that can make the most immediate impact in the legal industry. Let’s dive into what these tools can do and how exactly they will take your firm a step ahead of the competition.
1. Artificial Intelligence
This is often one of the first things that comes to mind when lawyers are considering advanced technologies for their firms. There has been a lot of buzz around AI for the last few years, mainly fueled by fear-mongering articles with opening lines like “Will AI replace lawyers in the future?”
While an opening sentence like that makes for great clickbait, it really doesn’t delve into the nuances of the intersection of AI and law. AI can be used to analyze briefs, identify strong arguments and missing cases. Building on this, there are tools for algorithmic citation that use text and citation analysis to identify cases that have been overturned. An AI-based research tool can be used to drill down to specific issues that affect whatever case you have at hand. Most law firms have vast document repositories and AI tools are incredibly savvy at learning what to look for based on the parameters of your search. AI search tools can process huge amounts of data at a fraction of the time it would take a human to complete, while also delivering incredibly accurate results.
AI can also be used to streamline contract drafting processes, saving huge amounts of time for lawyers. One example of this is when Coca-Cola’s legal department was able to reduce data review time from 10 hours down to 15 minutes using AI tools.
For firms still nervous about using AI due to privacy or security concerns, it is important to note that there has been immense growth in the “maker movement” where law firms and legal industry experts are beginning to develop their own tools for research and data analysis supported by AI. And this is actually a great thing for the field of law. Any technological tool, even the “scary” AI kind, is going to be more beneficial for the legal field if the minds behind it are also experts in law. It also indicates the way the concept of legal technology has turned the corner. While many law firms and experts are still understandably skeptical of emerging technology (primarily due to data privacy concerns), more and more people trained in law are open to embracing it. And technology developed by a lawyer is going to be that much more quickly adopted by fellow lawyers.
2. Cloud computing
A simple definition of cloud computing is when an organization stores their data on the internet using a separate data center that is managed by a separate organization. Cloud computing allows a law firm to store and access client data, legal documents, and financial records on the internet, as opposed to using paper files or an in-house data server.
Cloud computing is common in many industries but the legal field has only recently been moving toward it. One of the reasons is, as mentioned earlier, the valid concerns about data privacy and security. Another reason that firms may be slow to move to cloud computing is that in order to deliver online legal services, a law firm has to provide a secure client portal. A client portal allows each client to use a name and password to access their case information online. They can also communicate with their lawyer, upload and organize necessary files, and pay their legal bills through their client portal.
Cloud computing creates an easy way for lawyers and their clients to transfer and exchange vital information. The information is stored securely, accessed easily, and provides a more efficient way for lawyers and clients to work together. It is a client-focused service, in that it responds to the growing desire for clients to be able to connect and work with their lawyers online. Utilizing cloud computing gives your law firm an edge, because you are providing the service they need in the way they want to receive it.
Obviously, happy clients is a plus and should be reason enough to make the switch, but cloud computing also has tangible benefits for the legal staff using it. From a financial perspective, switching to the cloud significantly lowers overhead costs. It eliminates the need for bulky hardware that is costly to purchase, repair, and replace. Cloud computing is typically provided on a monthly subscription basis, making it easier to include in your firm’s annual budget.
Another benefit is that lawyers won’t lose downtime to back-ups, because the cloud backs up automatically behind the scenes. Data is also accessible from anywhere with a secure internet connection, meaning that lawyers can work from home, from the office, or on the go. The ability to work from anywhere, knowing that their work is backed up, increases productivity for lawyers.
But the idea of easily accessible data does bring us back to the issue of privacy concerns. The good news is that cloud computing firms, while being in the business of providing software as a service, are also in the business of providing expert security. So not only can you be assured that your clients’ data will stay private, you’ll also reap the benefits of having a team of experts managing your data security behind the scenes. Your data will be protected around the clock by experts who are constantly researching and defending your information from the latest security threats.
Another way that use of legal tools will give you an edge on the competition is that legal tools are generally more efficient in the long run. Many legal tools run on automation, taking tasks that were once tedious and time-consuming and making them turn-key.
Consider the man-power needed to review thousands of documents in order to prepare for an upcoming case. When you use automation tools for research and document drafting, you drastically reduce the time and man-power needed to get the results you want. And when you attach a monetary amount to those research hours, it is easy to quantify how much the lack of automation drains financial resources from your firm. When you compare the financial value of all those ongoing research hours to the smaller monthly amount for a cloud-based service, the cost of research dips drastically.
The benefits of automation go beyond saving your firm time and money, they can also save your clients money. Using the right tools to speed up tedious but necessary tasks also makes a tangible difference for your clients’ bottom line. One example of this is when employment firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart made a licensing deal with LegalMotion. They used LegalMotion’s AI platform to analyze lawsuits and use automation to draft responses to discovery quests. What the employment firm found was that their clients saved around $3000 per case, a tangible result that gave their firm a competitive advantage.
Automation gives your law firm the flexibility to attract and support clients in need of affordable legal assistance. You can serve more clients and provide support to those who might not otherwise have been able to afford it. This goodwill is going to go a long way toward building up a positive reputation for your legal firm, especially compared to firms not using technology and pricing up based on paying for manpower rather than an efficient tool.
When the most time-consuming tasks are automated, an enormous amount of time opens up for law firms. Lawyers are better able to direct their time to their clients, knowing that necessary but tedious tasks have been delegated to smart technologies.
4. Electronic discovery
Also known as e-discovery or technology assisted review, this tool has higher accuracy and recall than humans. E-discovery combines the benefits of AI and automation, streamlining the process of researching and matching relevant cases, approaches, and judgements to your current case.
Research tools turn up the dial on efficiency and productivity, allowing lawyers to provide better estimates for clients and provide even more transparency about the length and cost of research time. This in turn makes for happier clients. The right tools allow you to set accurate expectations for your clients on timelines and outcomes. By using AI that understands and can analyze legal data, a law firm can better predict the viability of potential cases and outcomes and what the ultimate cost might be for clients. This knowledge makes lawyers more effective and gives them and their clients the ability to make data-driven decisions.
Setting these accurate expectations based on your knowledge of how your research tools help you work efficiently means that your clients are much less likely to feel caught off guard or taken advantage of by “surprise” fees.
Making use of research tools puts you ahead of the game, particularly compared to firms that aren’t making use of this type of technology. But the benefits aren’t just external. While of course the goal is to get results for your clients, the advantage of using savvy research tools means that you’ll personally reap benefits too. Rather than spending hours of research on your own, you can cut that time down to a fraction using a research tool. That will undoubtedly improve your mood and morale moving forward, knowing that tasks that once sucked up your time and energy are now virtually turn-key.
The benefit of e-discovery for clients is reduced legal costs, making litigation more affordable and increasing access to the justice system. E-discovery does require a level of technical proficiency, but the benefit to lawyers is that this quick and efficient research allows them to work more effectively for their clients and close more cases satisfactorily.
5. Data and litigation analytics
Building on the benefit of e-discovery, data analytics and litigation analytics can review huge amounts of information to identify patterns and provide nuanced insight to lawyers. These AI-enabled technologies provide an in-depth look at strategies, judges, law firms, and even expert witnesses to better understand litigation outcomes.
These tools help lawyers create strategies that will have better outcomes for their clients because it allows them to understand judicial behavior, court trends, and of course case precedence. Access to the right data allows lawyers to make connections, improve their decision making, and provide better service to their clients. It also solves the problem of data overload, something that can quickly take over if your firm is using e-discovery without the added support of a solid analytics system.
Analytics gives lawyers an edge because they can take a more nuanced approach to their strategy, based on precedent and an understanding of how particular judge’s decisions fell in similar cases. Data analytics helps lawyers quickly identify patterns that can aid in creating a stronger case. The ability to use this can be a game changer for lawyers, preventing them from using tactics that may have a lower chance of succeeding. It helps lawyers to make sound, informed decisions to improve outcomes for their clients.
Lawyers who make use of data analytics gain levels of insight over lawyers who don’t take the time to invest in the right technology. The 2020 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report found that 45% of all responding lawyers had used legal analytics in the past year. So this is clearly an area with a significant adoption percentage, meaning that law firms that don’t keep up will quickly be left behind.
Data analytics also provide law firms a clearer understanding of their costs, allowing them to make smarter financial decisions and incentivizing their lawyers to work more efficiently. When law firms utilize legal tools they are better able to provide legal services and access to justice to even more people and communities.
Ready to give your law firm a competitive edge with legal tools? Tech Masters is an expert in technological solutions for the legal industry. Contact us today for a free assessment where we provide you with the best value solutions for your firm.
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