Creating a future-ready law firm

Posted by Alice Hemmings, sales executive at Legal Futures Associate Minerva

Hemmings: Traditional firms that fail to evolve will frustrate potential clients, and frustrated clients will take their business elsewhere.

Before the pandemic, most law firms across the UK had started the journey towards digital transformation.

But there is no denying that the legal sector has been historically slow to recognise and adopt technological advancement, with a third of firms eschewing any involvement in business innovation between 2014 and 2016.

Covid-19 changed everything and with firms suddenly forced to facilitate remote working, the profession accelerated its digital journey. Today, while many are back in the office, and the ‘new normal’ no longer consists of lockdowns and quarantines, there’s no doubt that things have altered. And there is no going back.

Expectations are higher than ever

The pandemic saw a massive surge in technology use as people and organisations adjusted to new ways of doing things.

Post-lockdown, clients – who have long used smart devices, cloud technology and automated services to make their private lives easier – have experienced the digitisation of business services.

They know the convenience technology provides and expect it to be in place and work smoothly. So, as a minimum, law firms should look to invest in the following:

  • Accessible communication channels that deliver a quality and consistent client experience and allow fee-earners to share information with clients effectively;
  • Customer-focused technology that provides an at-a-glance overview of progress/matters from a client-centric perspective (e.g., dashboards, trackers, etc.);
  • Automated technology that reduces the administration burden and minimises/eliminates time-consuming manual processes. Indeed, 45% of customers are more likely to use self-service than before the pandemic.

Traditional firms that fail to evolve will frustrate potential clients, and frustrated clients will take their business elsewhere. But it’s not just clients who expect to work with future-ready law firms.

Millennials are the largest group working in the UK today, and Gen Z is expected to account for 27% of the global workforce by 2025. You would expect this demographic to want to work for tech-enabled organisations. But thanks to the pandemic, legal employees of all ages now require more from their employers.

For example, 54% of employees would consider leaving their jobs if they were not offered some form of flexibility in where and when they work. Investing in the technology required to facilitate mobile work is essential.

Tech investment can boost efficiency and profitability

It’s not just about where lawyers work; it’s also about how they work. According to one study, 87% of lawyers in legal departments and 83% in law firms say it’s extremely or very important to them to work for an organisation that fully leverages technology.

Fee-earners don’t want to waste time on burdensome processes. And they will leave firms that don’t give them the tools they need to work effectively.

On the other hand, investing in digital alleviates the tedious work and releases fee-earners to spend time on more specialised tasks. This improves employee satisfaction levels and makes clients happy.

Crucially, tech investment also generates profits for legal businesses, with 63% of technology-leading law firms reporting profitability increases.

Investment in legal technology is increasing

Increasingly, law firms recognise the value of legal tech. According to one study:

  • 75% of law firms invested more in digital technologies in 2021 than in any other year;
  • 65% of law firms invested in at least one form of automation technology in response to the pandemic;
  • Over 50% of law firms claimed that they adapted to technological innovation 20 times faster than expected; and
  • 75% of law firms have continued investing in automation after seeing significant returns on investment during the pandemic.

Here are the leading legal industry trends when it comes to creating a future-ready law firm:

Remote working tools: E-meeting and collaboration tech, remote case management and cloud platforms are popular as some law firms switch to a permanent hybrid-working model.

And as more firms work and collaborate remotely, tools that deliver data security and compliance are also vital.

Artificial intelligence: Entry-level AI tools such as chatbots are already taking over basic, mundane tasks in some firms. And AI will soon play a vital role in the client experience (it’s already happening at tech-leading businesses such as Amazon and Netflix).

Automation: Savvy law firms have been accelerating automation adoption to reduce departmental silos, improve efficiency, and reduce instances of human error, amongst other benefits.

Digital onboarding & e-signatures: Forward-thinking firms are simplifying the client journey and freeing staff to focus on higher-priority work (88% of the top 100 firms have invested in e-signatures).

As well as providing faster file opening, digital onboarding tools also help firms meet their anti-money laundering compliance obligations.


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