The practice of law is experiencing digital disruption. The intersection of competitive pressures and technological innovation have transformed the way law firms and legal departments operate. The growth of the alternative legal services providers market and increased adoption of DIY solutions such as Rocket Lawyer place enormous pressures on the legal profession to become more efficient and competitive.
Decreased Technology Adoption Despite Increased Workload
These competitive pressures notwithstanding, the legal profession remains slow to adopt technology. Realization rates have continued to decline from 94% in 2004 to 89% in 2019, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters on the state of the legal market. At the same time, the volume of matters and workload continue to rise, leading to higher direct and indirect expenses. As the volume of workload continues to rise, so does the volume of unstructured content that circulates within legal workflows. More unstructured content means more time and resources are lost in sorting, classifying, managing, and optimizing document workflows. More data also means more concerns with regard security.
Innovative technologies are needed in order to transform document workflows in a manner that maintains data security, facilitates collaboration, and enables legal professionals to divert time and energy from administrative tasks to high-value responsibilities. A recent EY report highlights these challenges faced by the legal profession: “The legal function is in danger of falling behind other functions, such as HR, IT and Finance, and missing out on the benefits these functions have realized from their moves to modernize.” There are several practical applications of technology that can improve the efficiency – and impact – of modern law practices.
Meeting Client Demands Leveraging Mobile
One critical area of technology adoption is mobility. As a solo or small firm attorney, the pressure to keep and acquire clients, while managing all administrative tasks can be overwhelming. With mobile advancements, legal professionals can run their law practice from the palm of their hands. On the go, mobile device can serve as a virtual office to scan and transform documents into searchable PDFs; highlight, annotate, and comment on important documents; redact privileged, confidential, and sensitive information; and share documents with clients and colleagues. Advanced mobile applications enable legal professionals to email, print, and save documents from their device and seamlessly access applications such as Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and iCloud.
Remaining Agile with Advanced Technologies
Another area for enhancing the legal practice is the application of more of advanced machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that dramatically reduce the review and analysis of large volumes of legal documents. AI and ML enable human-like understanding of contracts and documents with advanced linguistic capabilities to surface key terms and phrases and identify relevant sections from contracts, leases, and regulatory filings.
In today’s fast paced global environment, legal professionals must remain agile. While the practice of law is knowledge intensive and relationship driven, therefore unlikely to be replaced by technology, the need for speed and efficiency is becoming increasingly imperative. Mobile advancements, AI, ML, and automation are key technologies that can transform the way law firms and legal departments operate. Embracing technological disruption enables legal professionals to run their practice more efficiently, improve document workflows, and ultimately better serve their clients.
by Andrew Pery