Posted by Karen Edwards, head of professional development at Legal Futures Associate, the Institute of Legal Finance & Management
New research shows that less than a third of solicitors use basic legal technology, with a lack of understanding among senior management a major barrier, as they provided no encouragement for firms to take on new technology.
The fact is that legal technology can do a lot for your firm, your people and your clients. Here’s why.
When considering implementing or changing technology, each firm should assess its own specific needs based on its structure, both financial and operational, its client base and the services it offers. Law firms should ask two key questions: What are we trying to achieve with implementing or changing technology? What problem are we trying to solve or what opportunity are we trying to create?
Any implementation or migration needs to be as seamless as possible to avoid too much disruption or downtime in service. These projects should be a collaborative effort and not just down to one or two people who don’t always understand what is needed.
Get your people on board and involved: understand their needs and challenges, as well as those of the firm.
Not all teams and individuals have the same requirements – can the technology be adapted or customised to ensure it can work in the best way possible for that type of work? Consider issues around risk and compliance and how technology can enable firms to be more focused on outcome rather than applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
I recommend appointing ‘superusers’ or ‘team champions’ and involving them in the change process to help their teams with questions and ideas.
Improved efficiency and productivity
All law firms need the right tools in place to deliver legal services in a modern and efficient way, to grow their business and to deliver high-quality client service.
Workflows and template management can automate processes to help teams work as efficiently as possible. These can free lawyers’ invaluable time and allow them to focus on other key drivers, such as business or personal development and improving work-life balance.
By following these processes, lawyers can spend less time on routine administrative tasks and more time on high-quality legal work and client service.
When considering implementing or changing systems, many firms want to know how a system can integrate and work with other solutions to enhance client service and productivity – for example, e-bundle software and completing and signing documents electronically.
Risk and compliance
Many technology systems can be customised to meet regulatory obligations and mitigate risk in a simple, cost-effective way. Some examples are creating an electronic review of matter files and supervision forms, creating and managing breach registers and other central registers.
Many systems will integrate with other software solutions to enable firms to comply with the requirements of anti-money laundering and customer due diligence to obtain initial payments on account and to chase outstanding invoices.
Workflow processes can also be implemented to ensure there is supervision at relevant points in time, focusing particularly on those areas of law, such as conveyancing, which are more commonly seen as high risk.
Exception reporting and dashboards can tell the relevant people what needs looking at. For example: this file is missing customer due diligence documentation; a risk assessment has not been completed on these matters; and these matters have a client balance with no movement or activity for over three months.
Law firms manage and deal with many issues, particularly around regulation, so it makes sense to invest in technology that will help rather than hinder you.
Financial management and reporting
We all know how important data is to law firms, so it is crucial to be able to create data visibility and measure performance.
It is vital to have a suite of reports to measure a law firm’s key performance indicators. Examples include the gross profit margins of teams, recovery rates and lock-up, all of which are key to identifying the areas where improvement and focus are needed.
Some systems will produce dashboard reporting: this creates a visual suite of information to aid lawyers and their teams understand their performance, both at a team and an individual level.
This information and presentation may be part of a practice management system (PMS) and there are many suppliers who will provide additional software for business intelligence to sit on top of a PMS and extract the data, thus presenting it back in a user-friendly and intelligible way.
As management guru Peter Drucker says: “What gets measured gets done.”
Who forms your client base? How do they like to receive their legal service? Most people live on their phones and tablets these days and like to do things at their convenience in a simple and easy way. Generation Z’s attention span is approximately 2.7 seconds!
How does your technology assist with client service and communication to meet the changing expectations of clients? For example, you could consider using secure client portals to share information with your client and using electronic signatures on appropriate documentation.
Using the right technology in your firm can improve the client experience. Moving to more online, automated processes can simplify and speed up work that has previously been costly and time-consuming.
The ILFM continues to research technology and software to provide information to our members and to a wider audience in the legal industry.