The legal market is changing, but you probably already know that. What you may not know, however, is what you should be doing to ensure that you still have a job as a lawyer in a few years. With so many legal startups emerging, the internet and technology are replacing many of the basic legal services lawyers used to provide. It’s time to think about how you can change, improve, and prepare your law practice for the future. Read on to find out why automation is the key to survival for lawyers.
Adapt or Die
As with Darwinism in the living world, in business there is a very real notion of adapt or die. But compared to other industries, the legal industry has managed to delay this impending destiny through strict regulation and a sort of “guild mentality” which stifles much potential for innovation.
But all of that is slowly changing, and the legal industry as we knew it is crumbling before our eyes.
Technology has already completely changed the way in which people access legal information. Whether through articles on sites like NOLO or answers on Q&A platforms like Avvo and Quora, it is easier than ever before for anyone to learn about the law and how it affects them.
But we are also starting to see a shift in the way legal processes are performed, and in the way legal services are provided. New companies like Judicata are reforming the way legal research is done. Casetext is opening up the law for better understanding through annotation and commentary. And then there’s the streamlined, technology driven legal service providers like LegalZoom, Trademarkia, and Axiom.
Technology is bringing about a new-look legal industry, and lawyers are going to have to fight for their survival.
Why Automation is the Key to Survival for Lawyers
Technology is slowly but surely reducing or eliminating many of the roles lawyers perform. So in order to survive, you need to find ways to leverage the benefits of technology in your law practice.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
We’ve all heard that saying, and it fits nicely in this context. The best way for lawyers to compete is to utilize technology themselves, and for many of the same goals and purposes as their alternative legal service competitors.
What do I mean by this? Well, the reason these tech-driven legal companies are succeeding is because they offer things that are in high demand from clients. Things like greater affordability, increased efficiency, better customer service, and easy accessibility.
As a lawyer, it makes sense that you should strive to offer those same things to your clients as much as possible. And automation is becoming a necessary step in that pursuit.
Automation allows you to free up time, makes your life easier, helps you stay organized and on-task, and eliminates trivial distractions so you can focus on doing your actual job, i.e. advising clients, drafting documents, appearing in court, etc.
Here are the 3 primary benefits which lead me to believe that automation is the key to survival for lawyers:
1. Increased Efficiency
Greater law firm efficiency is essential to reducing overhead and maintaining profitability, and technology is one of the most powerful means of achieving it. It should come as no surprise that automating routine, repetitive tasks will minimize wasted time and allow you to get more work done.
Many processes are capable of being automated. For example, client intake, basic client communications, document filings, time tracking, billing, and other administrative processes can be streamlined with the use of technology. Even things like document drafting and review are becoming increasingly automated.
Automation is a powerful way of increasing law firm efficiency, and it will lead to better experiences for clients and a better bottom line for your law firm. You should begin looking for ways to add efficiency to your law practice through the use of technology now.
Read this post to learn more about why better client intake leads to greater law firm efficiency.
2. Greater Value
Most legal services are unattainable to average consumers due to prohibitively high costs. The biggest reason people choose to use LegalZoom and other alternative legal services is because of their affordability. As these services improve over time, they will become more and more viable as options.
So, how are you going to compete? It might be unrealistic to reach the same pricing level, but anything you can do to reduce your rates and increase the value of your services is a huge plus.
Automation makes reduced prices much more attainable by increasing your productivity and efficiency. When less effort and less time is required to perform legal work, the logical result is that costs will go down, and the value for clients will go up.
Read this post for more info on measuring the value of your legal work.
Finally, let’s think about the one thing that alternative legal services lack most: personalization. The legal work provided by technology powered services is basically “one size fits all.” It’s still not feasible for technology to account for all the nuanced differences of each situation and adjust the end services accordingly. And that’s where lawyers maintain an edge.
Lawyers are capable not only of legal analysis, but also experiencing human emotions like empathy and understanding. These things allow lawyers to understand a client’s legal issues at a deeper level by looking into their motivations and feelings. Thus, the legal services are far more personalized, and the overall experience is better.
This human element will continue to be a key advantage for lawyers for the foreseeable future. By combining it with technology and using automated processes to streamline other aspects of legal services, lawyers can focus on what they are best at. Automation will allow for greater efficiency and better value for clients, but while retaining that level of personalization that only a human lawyer can provide.
In other words, automation can replace the mundane, repetitive tasks and reduce legal services to their true essence – and that is, one human who is highly knowledgable and experienced providing advice and acting on behalf of the interests of another.
*Photo Credit: ralphbijker via Flickr (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License)