While law firms traditionally shy away from software development due to resource constraints and a lack of requisite expertise, the evolving technology landscape now offers unprecedented opportunities for innovation. The legal industry, long devoted to improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness, can greatly benefit from these technological advancements.
Existing Technological Infrastructure in Law Firms
In the current digital climate, law firms leverage a variety of technological tools, including workflow software, CRM systems, and other industry-specific solutions designed to optimise productivity, document management, and client relations. Certain systems enable the creation of tailored applications to enhance functionality in specific areas. For instance, some workflow vendors offer no-code solutions, enabling automation within their product suites.
However, truly transformative use of technology, one that spans across the firm and extends to clients, may necessitate the integration of these internal systems with the myriad of emerging technology services available today.
Technological Breakthroughs Propelling Custom Development
A few key market developments have now made it feasible for law firms to venture into software development. These include the advent of Low-Code platforms, Software as a Service (SaaS), Microservices, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Low Code Platforms
Low-code and no-code platforms have dramatically reduced the technical barriers to custom development. These platforms allow for the creation of tailored applications with minimal programming, facilitating rapid prototyping and development to validate business requirements, thereby minimising cost and risk.
Contemporary low-code and no-code platforms offer enhanced flexibility and power, enabling the development of complex applications using pre-established building blocks. They provide the tools necessary to create modern user interfaces that seamlessly integrate with existing data, systems, and services.
Harmonizing SaaS and Custom Elements
Many SaaS platforms offer APIs and integration options that allow for the addition of custom elements. This hybrid approach marries the convenience and cost-effectiveness of SaaS with the flexibility of bespoke software. A wide range of vendors offer powerful cloud APIs capable of handling documents, sharing intelligence, and providing expertise.
Microservices and SaaS
The trend towards microservices allows organisations to use SaaS for certain operations while resorting to custom development for others. This selective approach enables businesses to choose the most suitable tool for each specific task, be it a SaaS product or a tailor-made solution.
Potential Innovation Arenas for Law Firms
Three key areas present promising innovation prospects for law firms: Generative AI, Client Experience Enhancement, and Deep Verticals.
The emergence of AI technologies such as ChatGPT has underscored the potential of the technology that has been evolving for decades. There is a plethora of services available that can enhance law firm services or support existing law firm teams. For example, AI can enhance document quality or aid in the validation and integration processes, including Knowledge Management.
Enhancing Client Experience
Customer experience is the new battleground for firms seeking to distinguish themselves through technology. Today, consumers value the convenience of online services as much as in-person interactions. Law firms can leverage technology to streamline access to their services, provide round-the-clock support, and offer additional services that don't necessitate a lawyer's direct involvement.
Custom development can enhance online portals and law firm websites, providing clients with easy access to case status updates and file information. Existing clients could potentially engage with the firm's workflow, practice, matter initiation, CRM, KM, and other systems online.
Custom software development allows law firms to focus on deep verticals or specialised practice areas. Fields such as Estate Planning, Online Dispute Resolution, Contract Management, and Compliance and Regulatory practices have unique needs that can be effectively addressed with customised solutions.
With a myriad of services at their disposal and the right low-code platform (with a bit of initial assistance, of course!), law firms can integrate these aspects into their processes, demonstrating innovation through custom development. Custom development in law firms should not be a taboo, but rather a testament to their innovative spirit!
Richard Verschoor has been a passionate entrepreneur in Legal Technology for over 20 years and is the CEO of Hungry Mile Software. He was the architect and founder of eDiscovery in Australia and Decisiv automated email filing with incubated technology at Ashurst (Blake Dawson Waldron) and King Wood Mallesons. Richard Verschoor was a director at Recommind (now in OpenText) and VP at NetDocuments, where he led the engineering of the email management product business at NetDocuments Inc.
Hungry Mile is a boutique global software company based in Sydney, Australia. The company specialises in supporting modern product development based on cross-platform technologies, including Web Assembly. Hungry Mile products include X-UX to provide huge efficiencies in developing beautiful applications that easily access data and intelligence.
Hungry Mile Software has recently developed the technology to underpin the online estate planning business of a Sydney law firm.
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