There are many legal tech vendors who have created new and advanced technologies designed to automate, streamline and optimise processes. Many are aiming to provide an all-in-one platform for lawyers to do their work, such as pre-made templates, billing, time tracking, reporting, case management, and document management.
The question remains to how much legal technology has been adopted and actually impacted the legal industry.
Early adoption of technology in legal
The history of technology in the legal industry can be traced back to the 1970s. The legal industry saw a ray of ease when Lexis invented the red 'UBIQ' terminal to let lawyers search case laws online. The Lexis' invention acted as a magic wand. In the next five years, Wang introduced a computer dedicated to word processing. With the innovation of Windows, the use of personal computers expanded. Law firms, however, initially resisted the Internet. But a combination of client demands to deal with e-mail and rapidly growing Web awareness caused most law firms to connect.
Jacquelyn Palmer analysed the Bloomberg survey (Legal Operations and Technology 2019 Survey, Legal Operations 2020 Survey, and Legal Technology 2020 Survey) titled Legal tech is helping lawyers, but where is the love, brings to light the disconnect in focus between lawyers and technology. While lawyers look for better workflow solutions, the technology developers look for better output. Legal tech solutions must cater to the user's needs, integrating with the workflow and software system.
Efficiency through technology
Jacquelyn Palmer stated in her article, “Tech is built by developers to meet a perceived need, but something is going wrong when translating the need to the solution — or maybe the need identified isn’t really the need. Are companies building a tool to put a hole in a wall when the actual need is for a picture to be hung? More basic yet, maybe tech is being used to fill a need better met elsewhere”.
Switching to technology makes it easier for the lawyer to do the work and for the client to track the status of the work—the greater the use of technology, the greater the transparency between lawyers, users and clients.
With the surge in COVID-19, people had to switch their practices online. It is challenging to develop something that fits all in a dynamic environment. The customisable solution for all is impossible, and legal is known for being tech-averse.
Besides, during the pandemic, courts switched to the virtual world, which was not welcoming for people who lacked tech knowledge. Legal tech is about learning, implementing and improving the process from it, offering a seamless experience and improved efficiency.
Bloomberg analysis also points to the efficiency increase in the pandemic from 2019, a staggering 50% efficiency jump from tech usage, showing how technological reliance catapulted during the hour of need. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all inventions. The adoption of technology isn't far behind.
According to Bloomberg’s 2021 Legal Operations Survey, corporate legal departments and law firms, both reported improved efficiency and workflow with cost-effectiveness as the key factor while deciding on legal operations strategies and practices to implement.
In a striking insight on how much legal tech stood in for the commitments, Bloomberg's Legal Tech Report 2020 states that respondents attribute efficiencies within their organisations to legal tech. According to the study, 90% of the respondents have realised that legal tech adoption led to increased efficiency within their organisation. Other findings include:
- 42% of firms reported an increase in billable hours
- More than 1/3 reported increased profitability compared to last year
- Nearly 1/3 of in-house counsel attributed reduced year-over-year expenses to tech use.
Efficiencies aren't translating to wide-scale implementation of alternative fee arrangements, as more than half of lawyers say legal tech has not prompted changes to their billing model.
However, only a few use legal tech applications to make their work easy. Bloomberg report also points to the lack of tech-savvy personnel for lesser tech adoption. Legal departments don't have proper artificial intelligence plans to work. They don't have an appropriate strategy for using the new and advanced technology.
In our article on Legal Informatics and adoption of innovation, we pointed out that the return of not innovating is erroneously thought to be flat. However, the baseline of doing nothing leads to losses over time as competitors innovate.
The future of legal technology
Though the future is not predictable, it's safe to say that the legal industry is no longer looking for a needle in a haystack. Technology in the coming days will solve most of the unprecedented problems.
In the coming era, it will be better to see how lawyers and technology providers come together and bridge the gap between output and efficient workflow. On the one hand, the legal tech organisations may bridge customers' opinions and how they want to use the applications to make tech more convenient. On the other hand, the legal departments shall impart tech know-how, upskilling the tech-ready workforce, thereby preparing the legal department for the future.