Technology has dramatically changed legal work. E-discovery software now does the tasks once handled by new associates, and tools for contract management, document automation, eBilling, IP protection, practice management, risk and compliance, and so on have automated many functions within legal offices.
The pressure to adopt these new technologies comes from various fronts:
- Clients expect value and demand that legal professionals show more cost transparency by incorporating particular technology solutions within their services.
- General counsels, chief counsels, or chief legal officers expect to see more due diligence or e-discovery within reasonable budgets.
- Competitive pressure has emerged from accountancy providers who have adopted quicker and taken over the legal services market.
- Competitive pressure also comes from regulatory technology or “regtech” companies that provide regulatory compliance, monitoring, and reporting solutions.
- Raised awareness of lawtech or technologies that aim to support, supplement or replace traditional methods for delivering legal services.
- Firms and departments face an increased volume of legal work and the need for a more mobile working environment.
- Case management systems and practice management systems are nearing their end-of-life.
What’s more, technologies such as robotic process automation, machine learning, natural language processing, blockchain, predictive analytics/data analytics, and cloud services have the potential to transform legal work and processes even further.
There have always been challenges to tech adoption, and any innovation journey and technology strategy has to carefully contend with such challenges to be successful.
Gaining new skills
Because of technological innovations, a new legal marketplace has emerged. Like never before, law firms are welcoming technology-related jobs, like “legal solutions architects” — positions with skills to properly use lawtech.
Technology-related core skills are already being taught in a handful of law schools — skills like data science, design thinking, and process improvement. The real challenge then is retraining or helping current law professionals, those who graduated long before these skills were even an option. They need to be updated with new technologies and learn new technology skills, or else they may end up a hindrance to technology adoption.
This is one of the biggest challenges with emerging technology. It’s easier to adopt a number of isolated solutions to problems, but it’s harder to make sure these solutions will connect well with each other or with future solutions. If they don’t, they aren’t scalable with your overall IT infrastructure and roadmap. You can expect that their use will be limited and may cause lags in processes.
To adopt technology or a new approach requires many stakeholders to accept the changes and costs. The benefits of the technology will have to be assessed, as there will be competing priorities and budgets. And then you have to assure leadership of a stable, smooth, and predictable transition to the new tech. Smaller legal offices will have more autonomy and can afford to be more experimental, but larger organizations and their legal departments will need to consult many different groups to embrace the innovation journey.
The benefits of a potential legal tool have to be risk-managed because of the increased need for compliance with regulations such as the GDPR. For instance, there has been pressure from clients to adopt artificial intelligence or natural language processing to enhance operations. This technology makes it easier to extract key data points in documents, such as contracts.
At this point, however, this automated extraction is a security and compliance risk because it can’t distinguish when to and when not to extract privileged and confidential information. Overcoming the risk of inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of this information is crucial to compliance and standardizing any legal technology.
At SpectrumWise, we are familiar with the unique technology challenges of the legal industry. Your staff and associates need to concentrate on their work and on client satisfaction — not the technology that makes it possible. So talk to us about our affordable, efficient solutions in lawtech.