By Deborah Edwards, Professional Services Director at Insight Legal
The legal sector is rapidly evolving and many time-poor companies and solicitors are now tasked with finding new ways to manage workloads and their ever-growing pools of data. This has led to many businesses shifting previously manual practice and case management processes over to digital solutions and investing significantly in systems designed to relieve the pain points and reduce time spent on a traditional, paper-based workflow.
Digitisation looks set to continue shaking up the role of practitioners and has even prompted regulatory changes within the industry. For example, HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative, which came into force on 1st April, now requires firms to record and report their VAT transactions digitally and many will have to overhaul their current VAT processes and opt for more digital procedures to ensure full compliance.
The challenges of legal software
Given the intricate nature of the legal sector and with the role of lawyers, solicitors and accountants both changing and quickening in pace, it can often be challenging for firms to ensure that their software is not just working effectively for every user, but is driving maximum value for their business and ensuring full compliance with industry legislation.
There are undoubtedly efficiency and time-saving advantages when reaping the full benefits of legal IT software. Modern practices now require more flexibility from their computer systems than ever before, which for the most part is due to the ongoing global shift in workplace culture towards a more remote and ‘on-demand’ outlook. As a result, we are now seeing a rise in the number of practitioners adopting this approach to case and practice management, with many now favouring cloud and mobile solutions across their firm in order to meet the demands of the sector.
The introduction of new legal management tools gives firms the opportunity to review their processes and look at how they want their staff and their procedures to come together. These things take time, consideration, planning and expertise, and most practitioners will inevitably still require some level of support in order to get the most out of their software. Making these systems work for you and your practice is the way to drive operational efficiency. With practitioners typically juggling increasing caseloads and time-sensitive tasks, getting help from an online chat, a website contact form or vague automated support line will no longer suffice. This is where the human behind the machine plays a vital role for the users and technology providers alike.
The age of transparency
Over the past few years, the use of legal software has been on the rise and most firms have been adopting new technology systems in order to streamline management processes and improve customer service by reducing the time spent completing tasks assigned to them. Yet, as with every new piece of technology, some firms may have experienced issues both during the onboarding process and when completing specific tasks via a new platform. Inevitably, this can also take up large amounts of valuable time and resources before a task can be completed, often burdening practitioners with pressures to resolve or update cases within tighter time constraints.
As a result, firm decision makers not only need their legal software to be cost-effective, but also want their providers to be transparent and responsive as they grow familiar with a larger range of digital tools. Suppliers that take much of the heavy-lifting away from their customers throughout the onboarding process and offer support beyond online chat and website forums are ultimately best placed to deliver the expert service needed to drive maximum value for their customers and flourish in a growing legal IT market.
The amount of human support needed for software typically varies from sector to sector and is largely dependent on their level of intricacy. For the legal industry in particular, these solutions are used by practitioners to undertake a range of important tasks, whether this be managing legal accounts, tracking case progress and storing vital case documents. Facing pressures to complete these accurately and on time, practitioners would look to their legal IT providers to help them when issues arise and suppliers must ensure they have the ability to meet these requests with punctuality and expertise.
Software providers can therefore take action to ensure their solutions are provided in tandem with the necessary support for the end user. For example, putting a customer straight through to an in-house expert on the phone as opposed to a generic support line will reassure them that their provider isn’t a ‘call centre’ and that it has the right people in place to offer clear guidance when technical issues occur.
Adding the ‘human touch’
Whilst technology is now offering huge potential for greater efficiency and productivity in law firms, many practitioners are still getting to grips with the full functionality of these systems and software providers must not overlook the importance of human intervention when completing important legal tasks. As the next-generation of legal software unfolds and offers more sophisticated functionalities, the onus is also on its providers to ensure they have the level of expertise in place amongst their staff to provide quality support at every point of need.
Although digital solutions are removing the need for manual processes across the Legal sector, they can never fully override the ‘human touch’. Smaller firms, or those without an IT department, for example, may need more guidance when it comes to legal software and a company that offers greater levels of human support for every customer will ultimately benefit now and in the future. From experienced legal cashiers, to ex-practice managers or a qualified bookkeeper, having in-house experts will understand user pain points due to their professional background – offering the vital input needed to help customers navigate their issues and resolve them quickly.
No matter how advanced and intuitive legal software becomes, with even larger companies now dabbling with new and advanced technologies, the legal sector will always need some form of human interaction and intervention. Regardless of their need to digitise, the demand for quality human support amongst law firms remains strong and software providers must now be prepared to put users at the heart of their business. Achieving this will not only allow them to streamline case and practice management and maximise fee earning time for users, but will ensure that they remain competitive in the ever-growing legal technology market.