Impact of Tech on Legal Services
(2021 Update)

Technology has affected all industries, including legal services, but the legal industry has taken more time than most to feel the impact. It’s not immediately obvious how much has changed in the legal field because of advancements in technology.

Why? To put it simply, lawyers are risk averse. They are required to be. We pay them to avoid taking risks.  Lawyers must put in a high level of analysis and review before implementing new products, which makes it difficult to keep up with the advances in technology that affect the legal field. However, there are benefits to embracing and capitalizing on technology and processes, specifically timesaving systems that can give them the flexibility to thoughtfully research the more complex aspects of the ways that the legal and technological fields merge.

Even simple upgrades such as collecting electronic payments, using client portals, and transferring their data to CRM solutions can save valuable time without requiring intense research. These solutions have been proven useful in industries beyond law, and while they may not be the most obvious solutions for improving business in a law firm, their implementation is a smart, efficient move.

But these solutions don’t just save time, they have also proven to increase profit as well within the legal field. We’ve mentioned Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends report in a past article, but it’s worth sharing again because they note that firms that implemented these client-centered technologies make $40,000 more per lawyer in 2020 compared to firms that were slow to capitalize on these technological improvements.

While these upgrades may seem like a no-brainer in the tech world, it’s understandable that legal firms might be slow to move on them even with the potential of increased business. Advances in technology require advanced training in areas that might not fall naturally inside a lawyer or legal aide’s wheelhouse. 

For example, predictive coding is a process where a machine learns from watching human behavior and then applying what it learns—like how Amazon or Google seem able to predict your search even before you start your search. This is becoming a mainstream tactic in many fields, including law. However, using predictive coding to its full potential requires lawyers to have skills in statistics, accounting, project management, and linguistics, which in turn requires the time and energy to gain those skills in order to use predictive coding efficiently. It’s like that catch-22 of “you have to have money to make money”; you have to spend time now in order to save it later.

With more technologies focusing on customer service and interaction through digital platforms, lawyers also need to learn how to communicate with customers online, more quickly, and at a higher quality than through a traditional law firm. (This is especially the case during a global pandemic where arguably the vast majority of business is being conducted online, regardless of industry!)

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives when you consider how much more accessible legal support becomes when firms make the commitment to utilizing these technologies for the benefit of their clients. With a cloud-based CRM system, an attorney can work from their laptop, from anywhere, and access any information they need for whatever case file they are working on at the moment. Cloud-based file-sharing makes it easier for legal teams to work together, see which team member made recent document edits or took specific actions related to the case at hand. Using an outsourced cybersecurity system also increases overall data security and protects the confidentiality of clients. 

For firms that do upgrade to cloud-based systems, the onus is on them to stay up-to-date on privacy concerns and privacy law related to cloud-based security and potential data breaches. Additional resources do need to be allocated to keeping the firm informed of potential issues or controversies surrounding these technologies, in order to ensure that they are making the best technological decisions to protect the privacy of their clients. This is especially true when using technologies that involve AI.


Type of Work Being Done

Technology isn’t just influencing the way that the legal industry works, it is also influencing the type of work being assigned to outside counsel. While lawyers can outsource litigation and e-discovery projects, giving internal teams access to the same software as an external legal counsel can keep certain matters in-house. This will contain costs and make working together more efficient. 

Along those same lines, sophisticated corporate clients are demanding technological competence, recognizing that a lack of proficiency adds time and expense to legal matters. Some corporations are performing technology audits of their outside counsel to ensure that they use available technology efficiently. Savvy corporate clients demand new alternative fee arrangements. This provides a stronger incentive for lawyers to be efficient with technology and their firms will make more money by reducing the time for delivering higher quality legal services.

With some smaller firms, technological advances have allowed them to take on cases they never would have in the past. The internet allows them the ability to hire contract workers to take on bigger cases. In medical cases, for example, firms can temporarily hire a nurse, paralegal, or enlist the help of an information technology department to sort through 150,000 pages of documents on a DVD and put them in a searchable format. Having the ability to connect with outside sources allows these smaller firms to ramp up to meet the needs of any particular case without taking on tremendous overhead costs.

Technology is constantly evolving at a faster rate than other industries can keep up with, but law firms can make use of proven systems that improve efficiency, research, client acquisition, and customer service without having to spend undue time and resources on vetting those systems. An astute legal firm will put the focus on ROI when adjusting their business models to the most updated tools.

Tech Masters is adept at supporting legal firms to make smart decisions that improve efficiency while increasing security for clients and data. Schedule your free consultation today!

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Advances in technology require advanced training in areas that might not fall naturally inside a lawyer or legal aide’s wheelhouse. 

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