Experts agree that the legal sector is not really on the cutting edge when it comes to adopting the latest technology trends. In fact, with the long-standing history of traditional values, it is rare to see widespread use of information technology (IT) in the industry. Even in current years, many law firms prefer to stick with hard copies (paper-based) including books, letters, and legal journals. However, as technology advances, this trend may be a contributing factor in keeping the “slow wheels of justice” at the reduced pace for which it is known.
Fortunately, it is evident that the benefits of legal IT technology outweigh the detriments. In fact, it is equally apparent that implementing the deployment of information technology is possible without disrupting the business. That is key to a successful transformation.
What Prompts Hesitation in the Legal Industry?
In the 2016 State of Digital Transformation Report, Brian Solis and the Altimeter Group conducted a survey of 500 executives. The general consensus was that the main issues included the following:
- Dangers to breached data
- Unsure of return on investment (ROI) to justify the value of increased IT
- Risk management compliance
- Managing potential legal complications
- Resources required for all employees at the office
An additional challenge law firms face is the necessary functionality of the space. In other words, digital upgrades would need to be implemented and perhaps piloted while the regular business continues on. No law firm these days can afford to just close its doors for a few months. These time constraints make it difficult for IT to be introduced and utilized in the legal sector.
Law offices often have a somewhat conservative approach to change, a lack of collaboration, and a tendency to be “set in their ways.” Also, many practices are partner-owned and operated, making the financial risk more personal than it would be for corporations. Lawyers are more likely to take a “wait and see” approach to adding cutting-edge technology.
Why Are the Trends Changing?
Although change is rarely immediate, an increasing number of law firms are acknowledging the need to modernize. Adapting to the digital age is gradual for many attorneys. Perhaps they’re dragging their feet for a few good reasons:
- The extreme amount of paper-based processes means the legal firm might spend years working to move all records to digital formats.
- Since the legal sector exchanges large amounts of data and information with many individuals and organizations, their technology upgrade could be a pain point for staff, clients, attorneys and even third-party vendors.
- Generally, legal professionals are intelligent, educated, and highly skilled. This means the move to embracing new technology should be an easy one. However, they may be reluctant to take that first step.
Perhaps a gradient approach, using a pilot group would help initiate the process. With a small team of informed individuals, the steps to introducing stronger legal IT to the remainder of the office would be much smoother.
How Would This Work?
It would likely require a process of educating the potential users about the benefits of digital technology. This would focus on how much time and money it would save. Explain how this advancement could be accomplished without disrupting the day-to-day business.
Furthermore, the top IT Directors or CIOs should understand how the evolution of their existing method of delivery would save money. It would also allow them to provide better service.
Additionally, by moving away from a paper-based system and using an automated self-service portal for IT support, legal professionals can avoid calling a support engineer when something goes wrong. Users can learn from tutorials and self-help articles to fix devices themselves. As law staff become more familiar with the equipment, they develop confidence to interact with new services and equipment. They learn modern skills and a willingness to experiment with what digitalization can do for them.
At the same time, it frees up IT engineers as law staff benefit from learning how to interact with new services. As the law firm moves forward embracing technology, they become open to further changes in the future for a more connected workforce. It has to start somewhere.
What Would Come Next?
A possible next step would be to employ a chatbot, such as Tawkto, which allows legal professionals to communicate with one another, as well as their clients. This enables real-time communication to occur at any time. By engaging their clients outside of scheduled hours, attorneys provide a more satisfying experience.
This would also help law firms that switch to charging their clients based on successful final results, rather than by billable hour. Since they aren’t being paid by the hour, it makes sense to maximize their time. Digital approaches to communication streamline this process.
With a sector that is known for preferring a traditional, more conservative operation, it is even more important to take a gradual, phased approach. The right IT Director can plan accordingly to ensure the comfortable adaptation to increasing legal technology. Though the legal team may never be as adept as the IT technicians themselves, this will help the entire law office, as they attempt to improve their digital resources. With the best legal IT tools, the law office should be able to provide better services for their clients and improve their bottom line.