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Tech is slowly but surely making its way into the legal field

By George Nellist for Digital

Over the years, tech advancements have changed the way businesses operate, reshaping and revolutionizing one industry after another. However, technological progress hasn’t impacted all areas of activity equally, which is why certain sectors have been lagging behind in this respect, and the legal industry is a good example of that. While it’s understandable that change can’t happen overnight and dealing with some degree of resistance is completely normal, the legal field has always been particularly resistant to change. 

It’s only in the past decade or so that things have finally started to move faster in this direction, leading to the emergence of Legal Technology or LegalTech. That’s mostly because law firms realized they had no other choice but to keep up with the rapid pace of digitalization and adapt to the changes brought on by the latest innovations. And so, they started to make use of electronic records systems, document automation, law practice management software, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain technology and other similar tools and solutions that could help them streamline their operations and deliver better services to their clients. 

Tradition vs change 

You may be wondering why the legal field has taken more time than other sectors to embrace new technologies. The reason can be found in its long and rich history. As one of the oldest professions in the world, the legal industry developed gradually over generations and has always relied on tried-and-tested methods that have been refined over years and years of practice. Stability and tradition have always been the main pillars supporting the sector, so there was never much room for transformation, let alone disruptive tech innovations that have just seen the light of day. 

As the world evolved, the legal profession was forced to evolve with it. But even when certain tech solutions such as billing software or digital records managed to make their way into to industry, it took years for these developments to reach widespread adoption and become the norm. Every innovation and piece of technology was initially received with reluctance and faced opposition until it was embraced wholeheartedly, and this attitude is still noticeable today. 

However, being stuck in the past and insisting on using outdated methods and strategies is clearly not an option for legal professionals, as conservative as they might be. Legal technology has come to play an increasingly important role in the industry for two main reasons. First of all, nowadays, law firms cater to tech-savvy clients and digital natives who have been using smart devices all their lives, so they have to adjust their services to meet their customers’ needs and expectations. 

Whether they need a criminal defense lawyer, a divorce lawyer, or any other type of lawyer, LegalTech makes it easier for people to find and purchase the services they require, thus facilitating the connection and streamlining communication between law firms and their clients. Self-service portals offer a good example in this respect. 

Secondly, tech solutions also help law firms modernize their processes, so they can keep up with an increasing volume of work, while also increasing efficiency, and productivity and keeping costs down. That’s why digital business management platforms, eDiscovery automation software, cognitive analytics tools, and other similar solutions are becoming prevalent in the legal practice. 

In addition, the legal industry is also facing a huge shortage of skilled professionals. It’s a lot more difficult for law firms today to hire a competent personal injury lawyer than it was a decade ago, simply because law schools are not able to produce enough capable lawyers to meet the demand, leading to an imbalance in the marketplace. Legal technology can help address this imbalance to some extent by implementing automation solutions that free up time for legal professionals, allowing them to skip tedious repetitive tasks and take on more cases. 

Embracing tech the right way 

As legal technology is gaining more ground, law firms are making big strides in adopting innovative solutions. However, the process is often difficult and challenging given that most companies don’t have a clear strategy in this respect and try to figure things out as they go. Therefore, it’s important for all legal professionals to prepare themselves thoroughly and create a plan before taking the leap in order to mitigate risks and ensure optimum results. There are a few basic steps that these plans should include, as follows: 

  • Assessing needs – law firms’ needs vary based on the practice areas they focus on. A divorce lawyer might face other types of challenges than a criminal law lawyer, and that also gets reflected in the tech tools they employ. Therefore, all law firms should take the time to evaluate their specific needs and requirements before integrating new technology.  
  • Researching tech solutions – there’s no shortage of legal tech solutions that law firms could leverage, but not all are created equal. Legal specialists should do their due diligence, explore their options and understand how these tools function and what they provide in order to make a smart choice. 
  • Creating an implementation strategy – the implementation stage implies setting up, testing and maintaining the chosen tech solutions. If the law firm doesn’t have an in-house IT department, it’ll have to resort to an external provider to tackle these tasks. 
  • Ensuring training – tech solutions only work if people know how to use them properly. All team members need to receive adequate training in this respect so they can use these tools to their advantage and reap the benefits they provide. 
  • Evaluating results – it’s necessary for law firms to conduct regular evaluations on the technologies they’ve implemented in order to measure results, address any issues that may arise in the meantime and ensure continuous improvement. 

The fact that law firms are investing more than ever in legal technology proves that these innovative solutions have managed to break through the initial opposition and reluctance and are now key drivers of change in the legal industry.