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Why Simplicity is the Key to Improving Legal Practice

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We hear so much about advanced technologies revolutionising the workplace today. We are told that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and chatbots are changing the face of industry. And it’s a trend that’s on the up. 

But what does that mean in practical terms? According to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Survey, in 2015 only 10 percent of respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or planned to  do so in the near future. Fast forward to 2019, and that number leaps to 37 percent, a 270 percent increase. 

While sectors like telecom, high-tech and financial services have adopted advanced technologies in droves, the legal sector has been somewhat slower to join this journey of transformation.  In fact, while there has been a significant increase in the number of lawtech companies, the same cannot be said of the level of lawtech adoption amongst legal practitioners.

The barriers to lawtech adoption

Why are so many lawyers ignoring this opportunity to accelerate processes, decrease transaction times and enhance both the customer and employee experience for the better? The truth is that the legal industry recognises the need for change, but numerous challenges obstruct much needed advancements.

Typically, lawyers who are resistant to lawtech can be split into three distinct viewpoints. Firstly, there are those who are keen to change but prevented from doing so. These are legal businesses saddled with legacy infrastructure who find that their systems can’t support or integrate with more modern systems. Also within this group are the younger, tech-savvy legal professionals who see the benefits of lawtech for their firms but can’t get management buy-in.

Secondly, there’s the group who are unsure of change. These are the professional firms wedded to the traditional billable hour model who are uncertain about (or resistant to) marrying billable hours with technology designed to boost efficiencies. This group also incorporates the ‘boomer’ generation  who are not as comfortable with newer business models and not at ease with technology.

Finally, there are those who are unsure about the security of new systems – particularly cloud-based systems – and those who may be overwhelmed with the complexity, scale and the cost of the advanced technology on offer.

The reality is that most law firms don’t have compelling needs for the full capabilities that advanced tech offers. For most lawyers, day-to-day working life isn’t going to improve dramatically by dedicating considerable time and money building a chatbot. Working life may, however, be improved by going back to basics and making changes to remove inefficiencies. 

The transformative power of small change

Implementing a series of small changes can have a powerful effect. Seemingly small actions can save time, save money and free up resources to invest in new opportunities. By starting small, it is easier to overcome  challenges in an organisation and quicker to realise rewards. Instead of jumping straight into large scale, cutting edge technology implementation, which will be costly, time consuming and risky, organisations can take advantage of simplified versions of advanced technology that are quick to implement and cost-effective.

For example, rather than diving into a full scale RPA initiative, a better starting point might be to automate processes that you frequently use in your organisation. SaaS based tools that require no technology, other than a laptop and an internet connection and no specific tech knowledge enable you to be automating processes within an hour.

Automation – simplified

We all know that much of the daily grind  in a law firm is neither enjoyable or necessary. With law firms under increasing pressure to do more with less, it is simply inefficient to have smart people doing ‘dumb’ things. 

As an alternative to doing this work manually, automation has the potential to revolutionise working practices. It improves productivity through automating the daily and repetitive processes that waste up to a third of skilled employees’ time in organisations today. By automating the dull, law firms will free up skilled staff to focus their efforts on delivering real value. 

Ensuring success

The key to success is focusing on the basics. What are your true motivations for implementing a new tool? How are you going to ensure employee buy-in? After-all, your employees are the people who are going to be using this system every day.

PwC’s 2018 Technology at Work study studied 12,000 global employees and concluded that there are three reasons why employees are motivated to use new technology: advancing their careers, improving efficiency and helping to do work more easily. 

Make sure that these factors are reflected in any tool you introduce to your organisation. Choose tools which will enable staff to do their job better, that will enable them to show their skills when it matters (rather than drowning them in admin), and select solutions which are simple and easy to use so staff can quickly see their benefits.

The future

The reality is that law firms are starting to adopt advanced tech, and more will follow. The larger firms are already embracing the latest and greatest that lawtech has to offer. For the majority of small-to-mid sized firms, there is a happy middle ground. By starting small, and by choosing simple yet effective solutions that are fit for purpose, law firms of all sizes can embrace the power of advanced technologies and improve the practice of law.

Max Cole, Barrister and co-founder of Autto

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