Practically all firms today use some form of Legal Tech, whether it be shared folders and hosting file services like Dropbox or online applications to keep track of billing and expenses. When it comes to other areas, Legal Tech adoption is lacking. Such is the case for client file storage, document review, marketing, case management systems, and client communications.
Practices that are sine qua non in the finance, insurance and healthcare industries are yet to become ubiquitous in law. For example, until recently, many in the field were still wary of cloud storage. A 2017 Thompson Reuters study looking into what made law firms “Dynamic” found that these firms “grew their investment in technology by 3.2%, while Static firms invested only an additional 1.2%”; 2018 saw legal tech investment rise by 713% and hit with a $1.6 billion, a new record.
Challenges to Legal Tech Adoption
Legal Tech is riddled with opportunities and challenges. The latter can loom large to those who have limited experience in tech, which is sometimes the case for decision-makers. Tech simply does not play much of a part in these individuals’ lives and so they may not realize the full range of benefits they could access.
Law firms are also reluctant to incur costs that cannot be transferred onto the client —this is certainly the case when it comes to tech adoption. Those who stick to this approach are ignoring the fact that with any irreversible market development there comes a point when refusing to change is more costly than implementing new systems.
Another issue for law firms to contend with is the sheer amount of tech solutions available. There are so many tools out there that it can seem impossible to establish what will actually provide value to clients and business operations and what will lead to confusion and waste. Where does one even start? What solutions and providers are best for the firm? Is a specific tool here to stay? Because of the nature of the tech industry —with its hype cycles, overenthusiastic promises, and abundant failed startups— most consumers are familiar with disappointing products and faulty implementations. Being wary seems common sense.
Why Focus on Legal Tech Adoption?
The main reason should be that it is an attorney’s duty to do so. For years now the American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct have stated that “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology”.
One of the most frequent things you will hear when it comes to tech adaptation is the classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what happens when those hungriest in the market are savvy and scale up their tech? When they are all working on the go via mobile apps, cloud computing and have streamlined case and project management through tools. They will leverage their tools to create greater efficiencies, make their teams more productive and flexible, and become more accessible and appealing to clients. If we have learned anything from watching companies rise and fall in the past decade it is that those who stand idly by while tech takes over an industry will soon be left on the wayside.
To remain competitive all industries must create processes and a work culture to adopt technology quickly and seamlessly. But beware of the roadblocks. Tech adoption becomes problematic when teams decide to implement a low-quality tool, or when implementing a good tool, but with poor implementation tactics. The third undesirable outcome is correctly implementing a quality tool that’s not the appropriate solution for your business. With this in mind, let us look at how to implement tech.
Change Assessment 101
In looking at tech adoption we will assume that you have already implemented technology to secure your clients’ information and data. For your next steps, keep in mind that there are tools without which you will no longer be considered a serious contender, such as client-facing portals and e-signatures. Once those are in place you can focus on others like electronic discovery, mobile applications, automated onboarding processes, automated proofreading and formatting, data visualization, predictive analytics, and even researching the implementation of blockchain solutions, smart contracts, along with various uses for artificial intelligence. If you are fairly new to Legal Tech and are unsure of where to begin, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that you first address easily-automated administrative tasks where a human error can easily impact your brand.
Adoption Plan: The Scope Of Work
You should use two documents: a Scope Of Work (SOW) and a Change Management Plan (CMP). The SOW would be similar to the type of document your firm uses to engage prospective service providers. The purpose of this document is to clearly define needs to be met and identify the stakeholders (any internal staff that will contribute to the process or be impacted by the change). Start by outlining what the tech implementation will address, then list all those affected and in what ways they will be affected. Then share this draft document with stakeholders for input. It will be less costly to take their input into account at this stage, when changes can still be made with relative ease. We will cover the CMP in Part II of this blog series.
Stakeholders And Continuing Engagement
Stakeholder engagement is key to a successful implementation. Keep everyone engaged throughout the project: planning, implementation and follow-up. At any stage where you are asking for input or reaching out, it is important to listen. Many projects fail because decisions have unofficially been made prior to even requesting input from end users. Course-corrections taking place in the middle of implementation can fail due to the same reason. It is also essential that you listen to as many people on a team as is possible: do not simply consider the opinions of one person to be representative of a larger group.
Also, remember that not everyone is equally impacted by a particular change. Using a new billing tool may affect an attorney’s day here and there, but it could completely upend the way that the billing and accounting department operates. Also, people are increasingly wary towards certain types of technological updates. A couple of years ago, in a report looking at the UK, Deloitte predicted that 39% of jobs in the legal industry were at risk of being automated within 20 years. Be sensitive to issues employees may have towards tech.
Consider Getting Outside Help
Navigating Legal Tech requires quite a balancing act: you do not want to implement certain technologies before they are proven to be cost-effective and efficient, but at the same time you do not want to be left behind or throw away money and time. And what is worse than risking your clients getting frustrated while your firm is trying to adapt to new systems? Even if you can narrow down the type of tools that you are looking for, the amount of solutions out there is intimidating.
De Novo Review can help you find and implement the best solutions for your business. We can sift through the overwhelming sea of software options that exist and weed out tools or providers that may not be worth your time and money. In a field like Legal Tech, which changes month to month, it is extremely helpful to be assisted by people who have experience and are up to speed.