We’re awash with statistics and research showing how law firms are in the midst of rapid change and innovation thanks to new technology. The Altman Weil 2017 Law Firms in Transition Survey states that 72% of firms questioned believe that change in the legal profession will continue to take place at a rapid pace.
However, the report also goes on to say, ““Ninety-four percent of respondents in this year’s survey said that a focus on improving efficiency will be a permanent trend going forward. But only 49% of law firms said that they have significantly changed their approach to the efficiency of legal service delivery. This represents a frightening disconnect.”
This isn’t really a big surprise in the legal profession. People have been saying that the profession has been slow to adopt new technology for years. I personally do not think it is necessarily the fault of the highly skilled and intelligent people within the profession. The slow adoption comes down to a number of factors; the psychological fear of the unknown, a history of inadequate technology choices and the prioritisation of clients (putting tech decisions on the backburner whilst concentrating on the work in hand).
One thing is for sure, we don’t need any surveys to state common sense, if a law firm can provide a client with successful outcomes cheaper and faster they will win more business. This is exactly what technology is supposed to do for firms, enhance their skills, improve processes to give clients more for less.
We at slicedbread, in particular our sharedo case management platform, are making it easier for law firms to embrace technology.
Fit for purpose/Flexibility
Another report, carried out by Redcentric, stated, “42% [of legal sector respondents] say that, at the moment, this growth [business growth] is hampered by their legacy IT infrastructure – and 36% say that their existing systems are neither agile nor scalable enough to support their future expansion.
It is no surprise then that technology can sometimes meet with staunch resistance. In our case management experience, we have encountered many firms who have had to change the way they work in order to fit in with their legacy technology investment.
We have invested considerable R&D to create a platform that is extremely agile and adaptive. sharedo can, in fact, be moulded to any type of work, but we do include accelerators for legal to speed up implementation and provide firms with a foundation to work from.
Before any solution is discussed, the slicedbread methodology is to work closely with a law firm to determine the best practices, client needs and organisation goals. This would typically include different departments and skill levels to understand the organisation structure to provide a solution that compliments the business and the needs of clients.
Of course, what we require today might not necessarily be fit for purpose in years to come, that is why flexibility is built into the backbone of sharedo. Whether it’s to integrate new technology into the legal chain or to change processes; super-users and the IT team can tweak workflows and integrations to help the firm evolve with the market.
Ease of adoption
It’s all very well having the cleverest software the world has ever seen, but if it’s difficult for users to use it will fail. Just look how Google has rocketed from such a simple user interface that was once much maligned by their competitors.
We do lots of clever stuff with technology, from complex event processing to intelligent disaggregation. However, the everyday user of sharedo does not want, or need, to know about any of this. What they want is a software platform to make their job easier, is intuitive and easy to use with minimal training.
A big part of our solution involves disaggregating work to the relevant person based on cost, skill and busyness so that lawyers can split their time across many cases to maximise the time of the most expensive and skillful resources. However, this is all done in the background so that lawyers, paralegals and even third parties and clients just see tasks, cases, information and metrics that are relevant to them.
The key to adoption is a well thought out user journey. Easy to use, intuitive and simple. The clever technology runs in the background and is there to help, not hinder.
Making use of data
Yep, you know the phrase, data is the new oil. It’s true though and when a large law firm is going about its business there is a huge amount of data being generated every day. This information is a rhodium mine (gold wasn’t quite as expensive enough) to law firms.
Making use of this data will benefit a law firm as it can be used to:
- Understand business processes
- Improve efficiency and profitability
- Provide clients with greater visibility of their transactions
- Make informed decisions based on historical data.
The data is there, the important part is to be able to make use of it, display it in a user-friendly way to the people it is relevant too. For example, clients could access their reports via portals so they can see, in real-time, the progress of their transactions. Business managers could see the workload and activities of individuals and teams to understand performance. Finally, data could help lawyers know when to settle cases, help firms spot fraud and eliminate process bottlenecks.
The point is, make the right data available to the right person in the right format. The data is there, it just needs to be harnessed and presented so it is of use to the user.
Integration as standard
Many software firms have traditionally provided software as modules to pick and choose functionality whilst steering customers to stay within their product range. This approach can limit business growth as the client must wait for their supplier to enhance their product offering or invest significant time and money integrating new technologies.
Everything that slicedbread develops is based around an API-first approach, basically developing an API that puts developers interests first so that it is easy to integrate with. We can all make educated guesses as to what technology will be useful in the future, but who knows who will supply it. Being open to integration means that additional functionality can be added to the way law firms operate so they can stay competitive and meet the ever changing needs of clients.
I mentioned it earlier in this article, but clients do not really care about how law firms handle their work, they are primarily interested in getting successful results (take a look at Ben Nicholson’s Legal Process Automation talk for more info on this topics) and the cost of their services. If a firm can do the same thing as you (or better), quicker and cheaper then they will win more business.
Technology IS an enabler. It can be scary as it’s often out of a decision makers comfort zone. Let the people in your law firm who have the skills handle the technical aspects, just concentrate on the functionality and what benefits they can provide your firm. Chances are, with the right technology partner working in tandem with your firm, tech innovation will make everyone’s jobs easier, more enjoyable and, importantly, will enable law firms to enhance their client services, profitably, now and in the future.