Technology is reshaping every industry right before our eyes. Some industries have already been completely overhauled, such as the music business and video rentals. Others are dying a slow painful death, like the taxi business and retailing. And in some industries, the technology shift has barely begun. Legal services falls into the latter category, with minimal changes so far. But as technology continues to expand and become more powerful, the pace of change could accelerate. In this post, we’ll discuss how legal services are changing with the times, and how legal process automation will play a major role in the law firm business model of the future.
Law is a slow moving industry
The legal industry is not exactly a hotbed of innovation. Most law firms have been operating the exact same way for a very long time.
They still use clunky software that was developed decades ago. They still process their intake forms and fee agreements on paper, even though digital alternatives are available and much easier for everyone involved. They still bill by the hour, despite evidence that flat fee billing is strongly preferred by clients.
When new innovations do arise, lawyers usually react with skepticism at first. But gradually, some new technologies actually do catch on. We’ve seen this with email, and we’re seeing this with the cloud right now.
This begs the question, why do lawyers initially react so negatively toward innovation? And further, what ultimately causes them to let go of that sentiment and decide to adopt new technologies?
Client expectations are driving the changes
Nobody likes change, because change is hard. This becomes especially apparent as organizations grow in size. Implementing even a minor process change can take months of hard work.
But change is also necessary. The fact of the matter is that your clients’ needs will change with time. There’s nothing you can do to stop that. And as clients’ needs change, the industry will always follow.
It’s important to keep up with the latest technology trends because if you don’t, your competition will be better suited to serve your clients, and you will eventually go out of business.
Lawyers are skeptical by nature, so inevitably they don’t respond well to innovation. But eventually, when they start to realize that they can actually use new technology to be more efficient or provide a better experience for their clients, they decide to adopt it.
We are big believers that process automation is the future of law. We are already seeing these changes in e-discovery, and to some extent, document preparation. But there is far more that can and will be streamlined by software as law firm automation technologies advance.
What is legal process automation?
Legal process automation is quite simply using a computer program to perform a process which would otherwise have to be done manually by a human.
Processes like e-discovery and document review are already being automated today, saving firms thousands of hours of human labor. But we predict that many more processes will be automated in the future.
As software becomes more powerful, and new technologies emerge in the areas of artificial intelligence, more and more daily processes done by law firms will be performed by computers.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Just about everyone uses computers regularly and understands the benefits of them. In fact, the vast majority of people now carry a powerful computer around with them in their pocket all day, in the form of a smartphone.
The benefits of automation are fairly obvious. So the real question is then, why are lawyers still so slow to adopt innovative software solutions to solve problems, be more efficient, and grow their practices?
Why few law firms have adopted legal process automation
Lawyers have quite simply never had a strong need to innovate. There has always been steady demand for legal services, and there were no real alternatives to hiring a lawyer. Legal information was locked away and inaccessible to the public. Only law firms had the key.
As a result, lawyers have enjoyed a position of market dominance for ages. Just like we see with today’s ISP companies, when there isn’t much competition, there isn’t any incentive to innovate.
But that is now changing. The internet has opened up a wealth of free legal information to the public and led to the creation of alternative legal services. Lawyers, for the first time, are being faced with some stiff competition.
How law firms respond to these changes will be key to their future success. Those who respond with skepticism may find themselves struggling to compete, while those who embrace the changes and modify their business models accordingly will stay ahead of the curve.
Either way, law firms of the future will look quite a bit different than law firms of today. Finding ways to use legal process automation to your advantage now is one of the best first steps you can take to ensure the long term stability and success of your firm.
Legal process automation helps increase profitability and client satisfaction
As you probably know, computers can run calculations and scan through large sets of data exponentially faster than a human. Not to mention that since computers aren’t alive, they don’t require an ongoing salary to do their job like a human would.
As a result, there are massive potential efficiencies to be gained by using software and automation. Processes which would normally take hours and cost hundreds of dollars can be completed in seconds for virtually zero cost.
As downward price pressure intensifies due to the rise of alternative legal services, law firms will have no choice but to optimize for efficiency. You will have to serve more clients per unit of time and provide more services for a lower cost in order to remain profitable.
But it’s not just about the productivity boost. Automation also has the power to reduce costs for clients, and improve communication during the process.
A Case Study Example
A simple example that illustrates the power of automation can be seen in our case study on Lexicata customer David Pyke. His estate planning firm utilizes our email automation software to save time drafting and sending out client communication emails.
He has developed a systematic, email based communication protocol that constantly keeps his clients in the loop about what the firm is working on. As a result, the number of status update and check in calls the firm receives has dropped drastically.
This system saves his staff hours of time speaking with clients on the phone, and meanwhile his client satisfaction levels have never been higher.
It’s nothing revolutionary, but it goes to show just how effective even simple forms of legal process automation can be when it comes to streamlining your operations to maximize efficiency and profitability.
Download the full case study to learn more.