As industries continue to rapidly advance their technology, products and services, it’s essential for companies within the legal sector to keep up with innovative efforts or risk being left behind.
The disruption of the legal sector stems from increasing client and employee demands for efficient access to legal services. The ability to adapt will serve as a key indication of whether or not firms will thrive as time and technology moves forward.
While it’s common for companies to resist change, this hesitancy to embrace innovation may be detrimental to the success of firms.
Artificial intelligence as an asset
Implementing technology into the foundation of a firm allows for increased collaboration and easier access to files.
“Nearly 80 percent of a company’s data is unstructured,” says Jay Leib, co-founder of Discovery Cracker. Artificial intelligence helps with clutter and can expedite tedious tasks such as research and document review.
With the ever-growing pressure to increase profits coupled with ever-rising staff costs, firms will need to focus on implementing technology that will allow for accelerated innovation. Ben Allgrove, partner at one of the largest global law firms Baker McKenzie, says, “There will be a rise in the lawyer who can leverage technology and bring legal domain expertise to clients as part of wider, more holistic solutions than is common today.”
The “billable hour” becomes undesirable
As mundane processes become more standardized, clients are less inclined to opt-in for hour-by-hour billing. With options for fixed-rate legal counsel and access to online legal assistance, alternatives entice clients to take their business elsewhere.
The 2017 Clio Legal Trends report showed that when it comes to hiring an attorney, nearly half (47%) of clients take into consideration whether or not fixed fees are available.
Trial lawyer Evan R. Chesler even thinks that the billable hour doesn’t make sense to lawyers themselves, saying: “If you are successful and win a case early on, you put yourself out of work. If you get bogged down in a land war in Asia, you make more money. That is frankly nuts.”
Legal goes online
Online legal services like LegalZoom have taken the law onto the web. These online options are typically faster and cheaper than full-service law firms.
Clients find that with legal forms and documents available at the click of a button, they no longer have to spend hours in their attorney’s office.
Retention becomes critical
Growth and development is a necessary incentive to gain loyal employees. The next generation of lawyers has a low likelihood of committing their whole career to just one firm; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that the average tenure for those with occupations in the legal sector is 5.5 years. This means business development training and protecting work/life balance are crucial for retaining emerging legal talent.
Technology is integral in maintaining that balance, and working remotely allows for increased flexibility in lawyers’ schedules.
In addition, new junior lawyers tend to incorporate technology into their profession. According to Neil Cameron, a legal IT consultant, “The new generation are coming in and just wondering why it isn’t as good to use the technology in the office as it is at home.”
The push to go paperless
In order to embrace technology, companies must fall in with the trend to go paperless. In a 2017 Legal Week and Microsoft survey of legal professionals, 87% of respondents admitted to utilizing pen and paper for completing legal work.
“For a profession that is very document-based, given the technology that is available I do find [the prevalence of pen and paper] quite remarkable,” says Windows product marketing director at Microsoft Robert Epstein. “In terms of peoples’ ability to compete, they’re going to have to change rapidly because…[the slowness is] certainly not good from a client’s perspective or frankly for the productivity of the individual.”
Passivity allows for new legal firms to grow
It’s no surprise that small firms and solo lawyers tend to implement new software quicker than larger firms.
While large traditional law firms may have established brands and trusted reputations on their side, their unresponsiveness makes way for new players in the industry. These new players are willing to use the development of new tools and technology.
This passivity is often the result of firms being unaware that new technology exists, or lacking the knowledge on how to utilize it, so new firms will have more space to grow while their traditional counterparts remain stagnant.
In-house lawyers become more enticing
In-house lawyer growth accelerated at six times the rate of law firm lawyers between 2007 and 2016, which could pose a threat to traditional law firms.
More and more companies have been utilizing in-house lawyers as an innovation strategy to cut costs and increase growth. In fact, supporting growth is the number one benefit of hiring in-house counsel according to a 2016 Forbes article. Perry Liss, of The Law Offices of Perry Liss, LLC, says, “A company with in-house counsel increases their likelihood of opportunities for growth and development.”