This past November, the Thomson Reuters Institute published their annual State of U.S. Small Law Firms report. It highlighted the top challenges faced by small law firms. The top two were: 1. The burden of time spent on administrative tasks 2. The problems associated with getting new clients
For the first time in the report’s history, spending too much time on administrative tasks was the top challenge reported by lawyers, calling it a “moderate” or “significant” challenge. The numbers back it up.
Four percentage points may not seem significant, but when viewed as 130 less billable hours per year, it’s easy to understand why spending too much time on administrative tasks easily translates into a financial problem. To combat this, savvy law firms are turning to innovative technology solutions to help them gain an advantage over their competitors and take back those lost billable hours spent on administration. The global pandemic changed the legal profession in many ways. The massive pivot in 2020 to remote work and remote court proceedings highlighted how technology solutions can play a significant role in the ways law firms – and the legal industry -- conduct business. It was a catalyst that signaled the growing role technology will play in the legal services industry.
The top technology trends we see helping to shape the legal world in the years to come are:
Hybrid Remote/In-Office Work Model
Working remotely is no longer a temporary fix or a required solution. It is now the way of the future. While not true for all industries, many small law firms benefited from remote work. Profitability remained stable or increased during the pandemic and productivity increased significantly. While there are clear benefits to everyone working from the office, there are also tangible benefits of remote work. Savvy law firms are embracing technology solutions that make remote work easy, accessible, and productive, adopting tools such as Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meetings & Phone, cloud-based document management, DocuSign and others. All these solutions bring collaboration, real-time communication and face-to-face meetings, allowing attorneys to observe body language, introduce exhibits, and seamlessly conduct depositions all from a remote location.
It’s difficult to remain unaware of the rise in cyber-attacks these past few years. Our March 2 blog post highlighted the urgency for all small businesses, noting 43% of cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses. Interestingly, only 14% of small businesses are prepared to defend against these attacks. With more legal staff working remotely, on less-secure, at-home networks, and considering the sensitive nature of their work, law firms are prime targets for hackers. Today’s cybercriminals know the reputational damage a ransomware attack can have on a law firm and that most small law practices will pay the ransom to avoid a scandal. Smart law firms are keeping cybersecurity a top priority for their firms.
Historically, the legal industry is a document-heavy business, reserving large spaces & storage for filing and records retention. In 2022, law firms want every part of the legal process digitized and automated. Digitization becomes more important as remote work continues. As law firms digitize, taking advantage of inexpensive cloud storage and backup automation can help reduce IT and operation costs by 30%.
Adopt The Cloud
Cloud technology offers law firms the ability to centralize data, keeping it accessible, secure and efficient while removing the worry and expense associated with physical hardware. Because the cloud is always available, law firms can access information and conduct important work from their own offices, from their clients’ offices, the courthouse or wherever it makes the most sense.
We published an overview of benefits for small businesses that adopt the cloud last April.
While the legal profession has a reputation for slow adoption of innovative technology, there are firms that stay on the forefront of technology solutions and constantly look to technology to help reduce time spent away from practicing law and those billable hours.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already playing a significant role in the legal industry. Companies like LexisNexis and Westlaw leverage AI to help firms research thousands of instances of case law with ease. e-discovery was the first use-case of AI in the legal industry. Now, in 2022, the legal profession is turning to AI to automate other tasks in a faster, more efficient and inexpensive fashion.
Automated Translations: AI can automatically and quickly translate documents at a fraction of the cost of other methodologies.
Transcription: In the legal industry a “paper trail” is always necessary. AI assists with transcribing court proceedings, body cam footage, phone calls, text messages and more into evidence needed for litigation.
Practice Management Systems, such as Practice Partner and MyCase, allow legal teams to communicate with clients via a platform and automate email responses and access client information from anywhere with an internet connection. Now, lawyers who work in the field, whether at client site or at the courthouse, can keep to a schedule and speak with clients when it matters most. AI is the way of the future for law firms, especially smaller law firms. AI will not replace lawyers, but it will help automate repetitive tasks to allow attorneys more focus on specialized tasks that require their training and intelligence.
Client Focus Just like the rest of the business world, the legal industry will shift to a more client-focused approach in 2022. Clients want more interaction and participation in their legal matters without the need to jump through a lot of hoops. Today’s technology allows law firms to simplify, speed up and enhance their interaction with clients in ways that make it much easier and more convenient for them. There is evidence to support the legal industry is getting more comfortable with automation, remote work, remote hearings, video conferencing, and other technology solutions that improve client communications, speed up workflows, automate repetitive tasks and improve work-life balance. Technology solutions, when used effectively and in a fit-for-purpose fashion, can reduce existing barriers and have a positive impact on the legal industry.
Roark Tech Services is the perfect partner for small law firms that want to take advantage of technology opportunities. We understand both the legal world and the technological space. We specialize in finding the best ways to bring them together for the immediate and long-term benefit of our clients. We are experts in the field and are uniquely qualified to help small businesses stay safe & competitive. Always consult with us first. If you don’t have an IT Partner that you can trust to give you the right support and advice, we’d love to help. Contact us.