Why legal firms must embrace technology

The legal sector is currently in a state of flux. Research has shown law firms are aware technology must be embraced to meet their full growth potential but very few have taken the plunge and tackled this issue head on.

It’s worrying there are legal firms which haven’t realised the benefit of embracing the latest technological advances, especially when 24 per cent of legal professionals cite enhancing operational efficiencies as a main priority.

Due to the vast amount of rules and regulations in place within the sector, lawyers can spend days at a time completing admin, rather than adding value to their clients and the company as a whole. Updating the technology used to complete these tasks is now becoming critical to the future success of the business.

Recent statistics show 74 per cent of legal firms plan on investing in new technology to address business and IT challenges over the next two years. Such investment has the potential to turn the hard work already in place within the sector into increased business growth. However, to do so law firms must implement technology with these growth goals in mind to ensure they achieve the greatest return possible.

Building a legacy

The first step is to take stock of the technology used within a law firm and ask if it is truly fit for purpose. Systems that only meet the bare minimum requirements to carry out a task may seem perfectly viable, but legal professionals may be doing themselves and their clients a disservice due to time wasted using inefficient systems. This is shown by a staggering 42 per cent of law firms stating their business growth plans are hampered by the legacy IT systems they have in place. Clearly, investment must be made to remedy this issue, even by firms aiming to keep expenditure low to increase profit margins.

When looking at investment, it’s clear there is a fine line between smart financial planning and removing funding from key arms of the business. Investing in new technology is the perfect example – many budget holders will be more interested in spending on recruitment to facilitate new business goals, which in turn can drive growth. However, if the technology used is hampering productivity, the business is setting itself up for failure as clients may look elsewhere for firms which offer more competitive service level agreements.

Legacy hardware will be slow running, while legacy software will fail to integrate to any new industry services or applications; from free digital storage to the latest database management tools. The time dedicated to research ahead of trials, communication with clients and even powering up hardware is exacerbated. Additional minutes spent on individual tasks quickly add up and equate to time wasted, which could be spent adding value to the business.

Every Cloud has a silver lining

Legacy hardware is relatively easy to replace but for law firms to remain competitive, they must update their technology to ensure their services continue to evolve. Lawyer’s today may need to access trial-critical documents on the move, rather than just from the office. This is why it’s so important law firms securely embrace Cloud computing and mobile devices to ensure the workforce is working as smartly as possible. If lawyers are spending tens of hours every week out of the office, accessibility to an office server becomes an essential part of their armoury.

Growing a firm with a Cloud-based infrastructure ensures lawyers can easily work on upcoming cases securely while travelling. If technology is utilised well, the ability to work from any location with an internet connection will see law firm productivity increase noticeably.

The law firm’s IT team will also have a clearer view over the entire system, as updates can be efficiently deployed over a Cloud infrastructure, rather than tackling devices separately. There is absolute peace of mind that each and every corporate device, whether it be a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, will be secure and users have access to business critical files and applications. The IT team can then invest its time in adding value to the business, rather than constantly fighting against issues caused by legacy systems.

Embracing new technology

Once a law firm has embraced the Cloud, it is in a position to build on its competitive advantage. Productivity gains will be clear once a remote server is available, but applying emerging technology on top of this will further increase business efficiency.

An example of this is the AI technology which is revolutionising the way lawyers research into previous cases and legal precedents ahead of trials. Traditionally this saw lawyers spending hours pouring over text books and journals with very little steer as to where the information they need is located. New technology enables lawyers to simply type a question into an app and the required information will be available in a matter of seconds. Reducing the research process from days to hours or potentially even minutes is having a vast impact on legal firms which have already adopted this technology, enabling them to take on more cases and increase the scale of their growth plans. The competitive advantage which can be gained through technology will then become apparent.

The UK’s legal firms are at a pivotal fork in the road, down one path are mediocrity and a continued reliance on legacy IT and age-old processes, while the other path increases productivity and facilitates business growth. Clearly, the time has come to invest in technology and revolutionise the legal sector for the better.

Those who fail to do so will be left behind by their competitors and quite simply won’t survive to tell the tale.

Simon Michie, CTO at Redcentric

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