Big picture pointers for law firms & legal tech

By Joanne Hunter, Head of Marketing at Legal Futures’ Associates Select Legal Systems Limited

Global economy signals suggest that tech-savvy firms are the ones likely to reign supreme in light of the continuing industry challenges that lie ahead

As business owners and leaders in our niche corner of the economy continue to ride the roller coaster of uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic has presented to us all, I decided to look at the big-picture for some pointers. In the hope of finding some inspiration, I wanted to seek out the big winners of the crisis so far, and find out what they are doing differently, if anything. The best piece of research I found on this was a recent FT article that laid out how, with a surprisingly robust stock market, the top 100 corporate players of the global economy have prospered in the face of the virus.  For me, their research was incredibly interesting, so I thought I would share it with my law firm friends via the medium of the LAWFUSION blog. I have tried to make some comparisons with the law firm / legal tech market, but I would be keen to hear further thoughts from readers who are at the coal face of the legal profession.

Lockdown necessities – 60% rooted in tech

The FT describes its list of ‘winners’ as those who are providing ‘lockdown necessities’ – i.e. pharma (in the race to find a vaccines), e-commerce and online services (for our new ‘stay-at-home’ norm) and technology (buoyed by the need to work from home).

Taking a closer look at the FT’s findings it’s no surprise that almost a quarter of the top 100 winners listed are Pharma/Healthcare companies (23%). We have 8% of the top 100 pie taken up by FMCG Goods & Logistics (including Food & Beverages) – which stands to reason.  Finance companies make up 6% of the list,  and 2% is accounted for by DIY Retail. There are a small number of Mining, Auto and Luxury goods companies concluding the list. But it is exciting to see a significant 60% chunk of the major players prospering during these challenging times all have one thing in common. They all have business models rooted in technology – i.e they are companies built upon e-commerce, online services, tech, software, telecoms, cyber-security, media streaming, social media and gaming.

Amongst the 100 big hitters, the synergies that jumped out for me that we can relate to in our small and specialised niche of the economy are:   Microsoft (2nd),  Apple (3rd), PayPal (9th), Zoom (15th), Salesforce (33rd), Docusign (41st), teladoc (100th) – amongst a number of very interesting others.

Success factors

Our clients are embracing technology, working with their clients digitally, arming staff with the tech tools they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability, and adapting to openly and creatively to the new norm. I recognise the tech-savvy law firms out there that are working in partnership with their legal tech suppliers, are indeed a direct reflection, in terms of the success factors demonstrated by the big winners featured in the FT top 100 list in the article. Their legal service business models are also rooted in tech, in terms of how they can best utilise IT to prosper in the challenging circumstances all businesses face.

Lawfusion sales have doubled

As a technology supplier to law firms delivering both cloud and on-premise practice management software options, our own experience very much reflects this big picture described in the FT article too. At the outset in March when the Prime Minister announced that we must all lockdown, we thought the best any of us could hope for was static growth. However, we are both surprised and delighted in equal measure that our sales for the same period last year (March to October) are up by just over 100%. With the work-from-home mandate forcing law firms, that may have traditionally preferred to run office-based operations, to pick up the gauntlet, we have seen a real determination from many of our existing clients as well as the new prospects we are speaking to.

There has been a marked escalation of interest in some of our leading technical enablers – such as Case Tracker (our secure web portal which allows law firms to share documents and communicate with their clients & third-parties online), the LAWFUSION app (which provides secure, reliable and convenient access to LAWFUSION for fee earners via their iPhone or iPad devices), SMS Text Messaging (from LAWFUSION case management providing a low-cost, viable means of communication for law firms and their clients),  our Document Bundler (a LAWFUSION module that enables the generation of electronic PDF document bundles for court and other purposes), and the likes of Signable (our preferred electronic signatures software).

A question for all law firms

A question for all law firms I guess is – are you positioning yourselves as providers of ‘lockdown necessities’ when it comes to legal services?

Are offering your own ‘legal flavour’ of the kind of ‘lockdown necessities’ your clients need and expect in these challenging times?

For example – can your clients check the progress of their cases online 24/7?  Can they work with you digitally by sharing paperwork securely online whenever is most convenient for them? Are you embracing e-signatures to make your clients’ lives easier? Are you forcing old-fashioned methods down your clients’ throats – when you could be embracing their preferred ways of communication? Recent research shows that SMS text messages, for example, achieve a phenomenal 98% open rate, and 90% of text messages received are read within 3 minutes. This kind of technology has been around for such a long time, and integrated with your Practice Management System it’s easy to implement and delivers an easy win/win for both law firms and their clients. But still, some law firms are holding back. Are you giving your fee earners the tools they need to increase their productivity enabling them to carry out key tasks whilst out and about? How easy is it for your staff to work from home? Can your people do everything they need to do from home, and as securely and efficiently as they can when they are in the office? Do you have the tools you need to become paperless or paperlite?

Optimism seems high amongst Lawfusion users so far

We have polled our users over the past 3 months, mainly to ask how we are doing in terms of looking after them during these difficult times. But we were also keen to listen to their thoughts about the resilience of the marketplace. And I am pleased to be able to report that amongst LAWFUSION users optimism seems to be pretty high.

We asked our clients to score a number of statements from 1-5 – (1 = strongly disagree / 5 = strongly agree). One of the statements in the recent poll was:

“In terms of optimism for bouncing back from the challenges of covid-19, I feel the legal profession will fare well, particularly for this firm’s area(s) of work.”

Strongly Agree                5             4             3             2             1             Strongly Disagree

70% of the LAWFUSION users that took part scored this statement with a 4 or 5.

24% gave it a middle of the road 3

…and 6% scored the statement a 1 or 2.

Some comfort

Few would argue that 2020 has been a dismal year in many ways. With so many lives lost already and the unnerving prospect of more to come, as well as fears about how the economy can possibly continue to cope as we enter the second wave, and the new lockdown restrictions announced over the weekend. There is no doubt the horizon is daunting for many law firms and their technology suppliers. But I guess some comfort can be taken from the global big wins. It seems the firms and tech suppliers working together to arm the profession with the robust tech tools they need stand a far better chance of business survival than those who are not.

We may even find the confidence eventually, to dare to hope that we could actually find a way to perhaps even thrive in this changing world, by taking a lead from the top 100 in the global list in the FT article.

Time will tell. All we can do is keep our wits about us, communicate well and regularly, and heed the warnings.

Here’s to weathering the perfect storm guys, as tech-savvy law firms, and their suppliers, reign supreme in the challenging months ahead.

Select Legal Systems Limited are the authors of LAWFUSION – the popular legal practice management software system for law firms. If you would like more information about LAWFUSION or Select Legal Systems, please call 01482 567601 during 9-5.30pm office hours. Alternatively we have an online enquiry form you can use to reach us at any time, and we will reply as soon as possible.


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