Posted by Arlene Adams, CEO of Legal Futures Associate, Peppermint Technology 
Peppermint Technology has commissioned research across 150 law firms (with 10+ partners) examining the attitudes and trends surrounding their use of software as a key business tool. The research was conducted as part of the wider Peppermint annual survey which provides insight to what clients want from a legal firm in 2012. The wider report can be accessed here .
Respondents were partner level and mainly the finance director or partners responsible for operations, including finance and IT. Some 86% of law firms claim they will replace and invest in new business applications in the coming 24 months. This is a significant finding, well above industry average, but reflects the change in the UK legal market today. The market dynamics brought about by the Legal Services Act and the Jackson reforms are driving firms to adopt technology to compete and survive.
Law firms increasingly need to become more client focused, improve automation and open up new channels to market, all of which drive a compelling need for new software.
Until recently the legal market has been dominated by old software created decades ago to service back-office staff. With new arrivals entering the market, such as Peppermint Technology, firms can now access modern technology based on a client centric experience.
This opens the door for firms to transform every process, person and task in the firm to be part of a client-centric operation. Anyone who has read, or followed, Professor Richard Susskind’s comments in recent years will see this is long overdue but the research indicates firms are starting to take action.
The finding is further supported by the importance law firms are now placing on technology. More than half (56%) of firms said technology was ‘extremely important and critical’ to competitive advantage. This supports the activity we are seeing, particular the drive towards implementing technology that directly impacts the client experience.
Whilst traditionally firms have invested mainly in case and practice management systems, and this is still important, the emphasis is shifting to the need for client-centric technology. As the battleground opens up to new entrants, law firms are striving to adopt software that can interrogate client needs and offer personalised services.
The remaining 44% of respondents confirmed that technology was ‘important and had a key role to play in the firm’s success’ therefore it seems law firms are not disillusioned about the importance of technology.
Not only is technology proving to be more important but increasingly partners are getting involved in an area that was traditionally left to operational and IT staff. Only 4% of firms had no partner involvement in technology strategy and decisions. A further 37% said the involvement of partners in technology had increased in the last two years, thus again showing the growing importance legal firms are placing on technology.