In the past 18 months, law firms and legal services providers around the world – in an industry that has not been greatly disrupted by technology – found themselves more reliant on technology than ever before. Lawyers transitioned physical handshakes into videoconferences and courtroom litigation to hearings from home.
The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey, released in June, acknowledged that the legal industry had been amid a technological transformation for some time, but the pandemic forcefully transitioned the hands-on nature to digital platforms. Wolters Kluwer surveyed 700 legal professionals across Europe and the United States in March 2021, about a year after the digital transformation.
Across all types of legal organisations, including law firms, legal departments, and business services firms, embarking upon technology advancement initiatives has become the norm, with 88% having undertaken at least one technology. Some of the most common types of initiatives at all three types of legal organisations include:
- Developing their own legal technology solutions in-house
- Hiring a technology specialist or team
- Partnering with a legal technology start-up
- Creating a formal innovation initiative
- Setting up a technology incubator
Ready or Not, Here Tech Comes
As the industry continues to recover and a ‘new normal’ emerges, technology will be a driving force. The question remains, the survey report asks, “who will be future-ready?”.
Seemingly, not everyone according to the results. While more than three-quarters of respondents stated that they expected the increasing importance of legal technology to be a trend that would dominate the industry in the next three years, only one-third of those surveyed said they believed their organisations were “very prepared” to address the challenges associated with legal tech.
Some of the biggest challenges relating to the implementation of legal technology fell into three categories: (1) organisational issues, such as a lack of an overall tech strategy, a culture that fears change, a lack of change management processes, difficulty to change workflows, and leadership’s resistance to change; (2) lack of technology knowledge, understanding, or skills; and (3) financial issues relating to the overall cost or an inability to show return on investment.
Legal Departments’ Technology Expectations
And it is not only the law firms that anticipate legal technology as becoming more important. Among surveyed in-house lawyers, the importance that they placed on their law firms’ use of technology skyrocketed with respect to driving productivity and delivering top service. More than 90% of them said they plan to evaluate prospective firms on their use of technology, and 57% said they plan to increase their in-house legal departments’ investment in technology. In addition, more than 80% of in-house lawyers surveyed said that it is important that the law firms with which they work fully leverage technology.To meet client demand, 78% of law firms reported that fully leveraging technology is important, and 63% of law firm respondents said they plan to increase their investment in legal technology. The top legal tech investments that survey respondents mentioned include:
- Electronic signatures
- Automation of document and content creation
- Collaboration tools for document and contract drafting/reviewing
- Document and contract workflow management
- Cloud-based services
- Legal spend management
- Workflow management and process automation
COVID-19 Lessons Learned
According to the survey results, 80% of respondents indicated that the pandemic caused their need for technology solutions to increase, and 91% said that technology has been crucial to their client services delivery during the pandemic, even though only 30% said they were very prepared to transition to supporting clients remotely when the pandemic began.Furthermore, respondents said they believe the technology gains they have made during the pandemic will likely continue to affect the way they deliver their work with respect to:
- Using multiple devices for work
- Improving digital skills for remote working
- Prioritising virtual/digital communications with clients
- Interacting with judges via remote hearings
Given the stronghold of the COVID-19 Delta variant around the world, it is likely that the demand for technology will only continue to increase. Tech-ready lawyers and law firms will be better positioned to meet the challenges that clients on the cutting-edge of technology are prepared to send their way.
Authored By: 3NServe
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