Posted by Jon Whittle, market development director at Legal Futures Associate LexisNexis
The prospect of change is a daunting one, whether you’re a global firm or a small one.
You might think that your firm’s working practices are fine, or that there’s no value in altering the way you do things because of the disruption it would cause. You might even see the benefits of using a different methodology, but still refuse to put the effort in to implement it – and you wouldn’t be alone.
From our research in the 2016 report, The Riddle of Perception, we know that 73% of lawyers believe that adapting to change is not where their strength lies. However, it’s no longer optional.
Today’s clients are informed and tech-savvy. They know what they want from their law firms and that’s efficiency. The active use of legal tools and technologies has been identified as the second highest driver of efficiency in small and mid-size firms, with lawyers, on average, using about four out of seven legal tools.
But almost two-thirds of lawyers still rank the active use of technology low in the list of efficiency drivers. Why is that?
For starters, there is a lack of uptake across the board; many lawyers still refuse to use legal tools for particular tasks. It can be challenging to convince them to give tools a go, even if they acknowledge that such changes could help them work more efficiently.
But it’s important to remember that, while it’s hard, it’s not impossible. Firms can and should continue to press for the widespread implementation of tools because it will make lawyers more efficient, freeing them up to spend more time on the business side of their practice.
The groundwork, in many cases, has already been laid; lawyers acknowledge that, ultimately, using tools can be beneficial.
According to our 2017 report, The Race to Evolve, for example, 95% of lawyers who already use tools for forms and precedents say that using them makes a difference. But even the 44% of lawyers who don’t currently use tools for those tasks accept that using them would improve efficiency. It’s situations like this that provide prime windows of opportunity to nudge forward a few changes.
After all, it’s important to take advantage of such openings when they arise. Start small, with innovations that are easy to understand as well as implement and, crucially, where you can demonstrate substantive success.
After all, lawyers are often resistant to change because the tools that are designed to ‘help’ can make the situation harder. For example, when a process is digitised, it often requires different logins, interfaces and platforms that need to be incorporated in order to achieve one task.
With our recent partnership with DocuSign, for example, we integrated their electronic signature service into the familiar, award-winning tool Lexis Draft. So, where previously it took 10 or more steps to add a legally-binding electronic signature to a document, it now takes two.
This is just one example of a small change that can make a massive difference and such innovations can encourage the adoption of more legal tools and technologies.
Not only will they make lawyers lives easier in practice, but such measures will help in-house IT departments demonstrate a return on their technology investments. It’s simple successes like these that will smooth the way for future innovations and improvements firm-wide.
Another way to develop the use of legal tools is by tailoring them to suit your particular firm. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some systems will require the investment of time and money to be effective and therefore appealing to the firm as a whole. There is room for improvement here; currently, 81% of firms spend less than 10% of their turnover on legal tools, with 58% of firms spending less than 5%.
It’s important to look at the bigger picture. Back in 2015, 80% of lawyers we surveyed felt they provided ‘above average’ service, but only 40% of clients actually believed that this was what they received. This deficit has not improved, but can be overcome by addressing the situation head on with the adoption of a commercially savvy and customer-centric approach.
While changes in the short term may feel disruptive, they are necessary if you want your firm to survive into the next decade. Change is happening, whether you like it or not, whether you’re currently thriving or not, and the option is to adapt and evolve, or get left behind.