If you’re looking to find out what’s happening in LegalTech to improve client engagement, we’ve gathered our 2020 views to share with you. And in our next article, we’ll look at what we can expect in 2021. First, it’s important to point out why LegalTech has developed at the pace it has up until 2020. The adoption of legal technology is now accelerating, but historically has been slow. Law is an ancient practice, with processes and traditions that have evolved over several hundred years in the UK. It’s natural to expect lawyers to seek progress, whilst also holding back from testing every new thing, to ensure they protect relationships and reputations with clients. However, client engagement is THE reason to do more innovation: LegalTech helps partners, solicitors and barristers improve how they work with clients. It speeds up their processes and makes negotiations run more smoothly. With the ‘Magic Circle’ of five top law firms based here in the UK, and plenty of investment available for new technologies, it’s no surprise London is seen as a hub for new law technology developments. So, why has LegalTech been such a hot topic?
Use-cases: why LegalTech is in demand
Like in most knowledge- or service-based industries, legal professionals face a number of challenges in their working practices where technology can help. We see three immediate issues:
Contract drafting takes time because complex data is required to underpin the contract, yet many of the terms and paragraphs have been developed already. Much of this work feels like administration yet requires a level of legal knowledge. Automating the administration, digitally dictating changes and using intelligent search enables a firm to ‘learn’ together and focus on the finer negotiations to reach consensus and close the deal.
New law firm recruits have to be highly skilled, but they still have to gain more experience through ‘grunt work’ to hit the deadlines, which can affect their enthusiasm for the job. Working for an innovative firm who is adopting LegalTech means less manual processing work and fewer all-nighters.
Client relationships are key, but the internal processes of legal advisers remain opaque – causing some clients to question why fees are so high. Technology enables better client engagement, greater transparency and faster processes, meaning firms can retain good relationships at a satisfactory profit level.
Where LegalTech is making a difference
Different technologies make up LegalTech, all of which are capable of transforming legal practice. This comes with a challenge for the technology decision makers, because a lot of LegalTech startups are small innovators, looking to break into the sector by improving one part of the process and they’re not yet working globally. That’s why some legal firms have set up their own incubators, to be first in the race to improve client engagement overall. The technologies which have made a difference so far are:
Automation and workflow
Legal firms are using contract lifecycle management and case management systems for internal collaboration, record keeping and practice management. This helps automate their work and prepare documents using forms, standard templates or common precedents. Automation in the contract lifecycle helps gain control over productivity whilst counteracting human error.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI has the potential to read, withdraw and categorise the information from huge numbers of contract documents, in turn, helping legal firms manage data more effectively. LegalTech, Kira Systems has established that companies lose an average of 5-12% of contract value due to lapses in the administration of contract obligations. Their study showed that firms adopting their AI tool can complete tasks 40% faster when users adopt it for the first time and up to 90% faster for more experienced users.
Case history is significant to investigations, disputes and complex negotiations, however, lawyers need time and support to find the relevant information. Data visualisation helps the legal counsel gather and analyse all the facts from multiple sources and data sets. Firms like Tableau and Qlik are leading the market with their capabilities, although Microsoft offers Power BI in the same space.
Voice recognition software
Lawyers have relied on digital dictation for many years, however, with the advent of voice recognition software, they’ve benefited from much cheaper and faster transcription services. The technology is still developing, because some legal terms are misunderstood and have to be corrected by a paralegal or secretary – adding to the administrative processes.
Online collaboration and secure video-conferencing
With cloud-based infrastructure services, legal firms have begun to rely on online collaboration – either through their case management software or tools such as document sharing portals and extranets for collaborating with clients and the other side. However, many firms still rely on creating word documents before uploading them into a contract lifecycle management system or case management software. Barbal offers an alternative – a fully cloud-based platform for drafting and reviewing technical documentation, with built-in version control. (See more about our product here).
The world of LegalTech is changing rapidly to meet the demands of the industry. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, lawyers have had to significantly adapt to working remotely, including holding trials online – leading to an increase in demand for secure video conferencing in every office.
In our next article, we take a look at the gaps in the LegalTech market and what to expect in 2021.
Theo Tay-Lodge is Barbal’s Marketing Assistant.