Embracing Legal Technology
Legal Tech and the Fast Paced Law Firm
The legal industry is abuzz with references to legal tech tools that promise the moon and the stars. Many attorneys start to tune out the noise and adopt a go-along, get-along attitude towards their tools and processes. Sticking your head in the sand, though, will not make the tech boom stop. Clients, especially general counsels, not only expect but demand tech-savvy lawyers.
“Legal tech is becoming more pervasive in the practice of law and lawyers must catch up,” notes Melissa Heelan Stanzione, Legal Editor for Bloomberg Law, in a recent article.
The speed of practicing law, including moving cases through the litigation process as well as managing clients faster-paced expectations, requires a proficient handle on the right technology. It requires law firm managers to know what tools exist and find a way to make them available to lawyers and non-lawyers in the firm. It also means that everyone in the firm must learn how to use the tools correctly and consistently. Truly, all of that may require a lot of effort, especially in law firms with risk-averse atmospheres that procrastinate on implementing change. However, when it is done — and done well — your firm quickly outpaces the competition.
Legal Technology Speeding Up
Almost every facet of the practice of law is speeding up, from communication to discovery to blockchain to pricing.
Then: Dictating a letter, having it typed up by an assistant, reviewing it, and sending it through snail mail. That was an appropriate way to communicate with opposing counsel and keep clients updated on their case.
Now: Thanks to smartphones, email is always with us. In today’s accelerating culture, managing the expectations of response time can be overwhelming. In one recent study, the average response time was 2 minutes! 50% of emails were answered within 2 hours. Have you gone on vacation and forgotten to set your autoresponder? I hope not, because you’re likely out of business.
Some legal case management software, like GrowPath, addresses this need for effortless, documented communication. GrowPath’s platform allows you to text, email, and call directly from the software, all the while keeping accurate records.
Then: Human lawyers would sift and sort through physical papers (boxes and boxes of them!). Discovery lawyers would bill by the hour.
Now: E-discovery tools incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) search for and find relevant documents at lightning speed. Some even include a machine learning component where the machine learns from the revisions made by humans. In this scenario, the search results actually continue to improve over time. This process continues until you have one incredible search tool.
Blockchain is a system in which records of transactions are maintained in a peer-to-peer network of linked computers in order to ensure no modifications occur. These records are highly secure and transparent. It’s easy to see how this speeds up the practice of law.
Then: To sign a valid contract, parties would gather around a conference table, take out their favorite ballpoint pens, and sign on the dotted line.
Now: With smart contracts (a decentralized ledger of documents and agreements with version histories and amendments that cannot be modified or faked), contracts can be e-signed at your convenience from your computer or mobile device.
Need it notarized? Not a problem. Online notary services (using blockchain) are available, ensuring digital fingerprints and providing another layer of authentication and security.
General counsel face increasing scrutiny over legal fees. As a result, they collectively encourage outside firms to offer more transparent billing and services. Firms that realize this are becoming more competitive and have begun using enhanced legal technology to accomplish better pricing models.
Then: Firms used a cost-based approach to pricing. Most often in the form of the billable hour, firms could ensure they were covering their overhead (especially the compensation of the attorney) by implementing a billing rate higher than the firm’s costs.
Now: With increased competition, the cost-based approach is quickly being cast aside for pricing that comes from data-driven tools. Using tools to help price legal services more competitively helps twofold:
- It ensures the firm using the pricing tool is awarded more projects because the price is better than that of competitors using a cost-based approach. In addition, response times to RFPs (requests for proposals) are yes, you guessed it, faster!
- It also ensures that firms utilizing a pricing tool use accurate data for better predictions of the actual time and costs of the project. This means that the price initially agreed upon ultimately remains profitable for the firm.
Law firms are amassing vast amounts of data and proper data governance is paramount to warding off breaches of cybersecurity. While this may not qualify as making the practice of law faster, a cyber-attack will surely slow things down, possibly to a halt.
Then: Cybersecurity meant locking the law firm’s doors, keeping all client files under lock and key, and setting an alarm so an intruder could not enter your firm and access your computer terminals or server.
Now: Firms must secure internal systems with in-house IT staff or a well-known managed service provider. They must also educate staff regularly on spam, phishing, malware, ransomware, and social engineering attack methods. It is imperative for firms to keep all devices password-protected and develop a plan to ensure that everyone in the firm, even the highest-level partners, follow security guidelines and procedures.
“Many cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error when established procedures are not followed. Training your staff should always be an essential element of your cybersecurity system,” advises Craig Petronella, a law firm cybersecurity expert based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Cybersecurity issues also extend to the case management software your firm uses. According to Bob Ambrogi, legal tech blogger, “The case management software company TrialWorks was reportedly hit by a ransomware attack, shutting down its platform for at least four days and locking some lawyers out of their case files.”
Getting Started with Legal Technology
Running a fast-paced law firm means staying on top of legal technology and knowing how to implement the right tools. For many firms, the best place to start is comprehensive case management software that incorporates high-level cybersecurity and enhanced communication in addition to streamlined case management and superior analytical tools.
Schedule a demo to see how GrowPath can help you run your firm from the fast lane.
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