Not a day goes by without at least one of the leading UK firms putting out a press release on how they have used legal technology for this or partnered with a legal tech start-up for that. So what is the reason for this avalanche of technology-adoption marketing material and how does the adoption of technology improve firms’ relationships with clients?
Since the recession there has been a culture shift in the legal profession as law firms respond to client price sensitivity and the absorption of legal work by businesses. It is clear since the recession clients now want more for less and law firms have needed to reduce their overheads to improve their profit margins. This has primarily included the reduction of floor space and non-lawyer personnel.
Not only is client pressure a key factor in the technological change for law firms but also competition from their peers and the new breed of legal services provider, the alternative business structure. These pressures combined have meant law firms have needed to adopt legal technology to reduce their overheads, differentiate themselves from the pack and provide the best possible service to their clients.
The investment in technology assists firms in one of two ways: it can provide a law firm with the ability to make their own work or processes more efficient, or give a law firm the ability to make its clients’ legal services more efficient.
The focus for the majority, if not all the firms, is on internal efficiency and streamlining processes. By doing this it allows firms to supply legal services more profitably and competitively. Good examples of this include firms’ use of technology to expedite the review of documents or contracts, the use of automation to speed up drafting and the use of document management systems to improve remote working.
The second use of technology relates to making legal services for clients more efficient. Firms are using it in a variety of different ways, including creating apps and automating their clients’ in-house legal documents. Some firms have even created their own start up incubators to invest in and develop next big legal tech application.
Investing in technology can be hugely beneficial to law firms. It means they can access new markets, improve service levels and provide clients with services which mean they can get more for less. Adopting technological solutions benefits these firms by providing them with an easy way to make their own operations more efficient, and in tandem with fixed fees can make the legal work they supply more profitable.
Those firms that really get to grips with legal technology can develop a culture which allows their lawyers to change the way they do their work and try new things. Clifford Chance is a good example of this as it has essentially formed a business within a business which is devoted to innovative use of technology.
The top 10 leading firms, and a select number of trend setters in the tiers below, are making great strides towards legal technology adoption and innovation. However, there are still those that have not yet fully engaged with the modernisation of the legal profession. In my opinion, the era we are in is a golden opportunity for law firms to strengthen relationships with their clients, whether you are a £billion firm or a small firm on the high street. Clients across the board want easy access to affordable legal advice. Now is the time to give it to them.
This is an abstract of the original article of the same name. The full version of this article can be found in the Modern Legal Practice journal here (subscribers only).