Digital transformation and disruptive technology continue to re-shape the legal industry in fascinating ways this year.
Increasing demands from clients are compelling law firms to keep pace with several new trends, and with these challenges come the chance to grow and drive significant change.
Several high-tech trends and advancements in connectivity have provided legal professionals around the world more agility, competitive advantage and future-proofing than ever before - so it’s no surprise the traditionally conservative legal sector is leveraging new innovations in record numbers.
Xello works with customers in both the legal and IT industries, and we’ve identified 10 of the biggest tech trends revolutionising the way you do business - so you can stay prepared and ahead of the game.
1. Business Intelligence
A large number of legal organisations have embraced powerful business intelligence (BI) software solutions in the past few years to better analyse their data and improve reporting structures. Detailed dashboards with helpful visualisations have helped firms consolidate key information into a logical format, to better identify problems and forecast reliable outcomes.
A recent Aderant white paper reported 51% of the top global law firms now use BI tools in their day-to-day. Respondents in Aderant’s 2015 Legal Industry Survey previously cited the increasingly digital competitive landscape as the reason for their investment in software analytics solutions. However, they also noted:
“Law firms have more data than ever about their businesses, but effectively using that data to make quick, proactive and strategic decisions has proved more challenging. One out of five firms were using BI software that was either outdated or unsatisfactory for their business needs.”
Better management of expectations and more knowledge on BI is evidently needed for those in law to use it to its full potential. Still, powerful BI software tools like Microsoft Power BI have provided immense value, clarity and structure spread across the typical legal practice.
2. Cloud computing
Affordable cloud computing services continue to be popular with law firms seeking better cost-savings and superior efficiency. The American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Survey report revealed a 52% increase in the number of lawyers using using cloud computing from the previous year, with small firms and solo practices leading the way as industry trail blazers.
Legal practices around the world have swiftly embraced these scalable solutions for a number of reasons. Respondents in the ABA report cited “anytime, anywhere access, low cost of entry, predictable monthly expenses, and robust data backup” as key drivers for the switch to cloud-based solutions.
However, if there's one thing that legal professionals have adopted in droves, it’s the flexible pay-as-you-go (PAYG) billing that has saved many firms time and money on infrastructure they don’t have time to manage, either indirectly or in conjunction with a dedicated IT team.
While plenty of legal organisations are still playing catch-up in upgrading their data platforms, adoption of the cloud and its many advantages is undeniably growing fast.
3. Customer Relationship Management
Legal practices accept clientele from all walks of life, so it’s no surprise many firms have embraced digital transformation to manage records more effectively rather than just using traditional spreadsheets.
The adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) software has not been as rapid as their equivalent tools in BI, but 2018 has seen a steady uptick in the number of lawyers and firms using automation solutions to manage their marketing and customer service efforts.
Consolidating client information into one central hub has proven to be more effective for legal practices to record customer information than traditional recording methods, and we fully expect more widespread use of CRM throughout the industry going into 2019 and beyond.
4. Mobile billing
Modern-day consumers pay for their purchased products or services on-the-go using digital payment methods or mobile apps like PayPal or PayPass that are faster and easier than the traditional cheques and money orders expected by the old guard in the law sector.
Many in the legal industry have traditionally billed clients by the hour, but the steady increase in flexible, digital-only banking options continues to influence the way many practices now accept payment. Piper Alderman, one of Australia’s oldest law firms, have even started accepting Bitcoin cryptocurrency payments from clients this year, with founder Michael Bacina stating:
“Bitcoin adoption is still in the early stages, and by participating in this economy, we can help show leadership in new innovative payment mechanisms.”
A large number of firms are already restructuring the way they bill for their services to keep flexible for their increasingly mobile clientele and to foster better long-term relationships.
5. Performance and measurement
Law firms and solo practices have historically focused on high-level metrics and billable hours to measure performance and success, but it has been proven over time to be a limited method to accurately measure efficiencies when dealing with clientele and the bottom-line.
Analytics and measurement tools provides meaningful insights for legal firms by compiling and breaking key performance indicators, which are crucial for optimal performance and profitability, in one centralised dashboard. KPIs change for firms over time, so customisable law management analytics software like Microsoft’s flexmanage have become extremely popular with forward-thinking practices.
With the simultaneous rise in specialised software like Clio and MyCase helping legal workers manage their communications, organise cases, handle on-the-go-payments and track deadlines, it’s no surprise firms of all sizes have embraced performance and measurement technology to keep track of their busy schedules.
Last year’s shocking leak of over 11 million sensitive files from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca and the $2.5 billion ransomware attack on multinational firm DLA Piper spurned an unprecedented number of businesses to upgrade cyber security efforts and privacy compliance, in a bid to keep with data protection standards.
While traditionally pen-and-paper, many practices with older on-premises databases have steadily upgraded to cloud-based, multi-tenant solutions like Azure Active Directory with more proven identity management security and disaster recovery to deter hackers.
The rate of legal firms fortifying their digital protection has grown immensely throughout 2018 and we expect thousands more businesses in the legal industry to follow their lead.
7. Social Media
Law firms historically have been slow to implement social media strategies due to the nature of their work, with mostly reactive rather than proactive use of the most popular platforms.
However, the unavoidable influence and reach of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has spurned more practices to ramp up their digital marketing efforts in a bid to engage more clients in a more holistic, customer-focused manner.
Out of the three, LinkedIn as seen the largest rise in adoption, with many solos and practices marketing their professional expertise on the platform. Considering around 8 million Australians use the platform for professional networking, it’s no surprise firms are finally catching up with the rest of us.
Who would have ever imagined a regular radio talk show run by lawyers, let alone dozens?
The rising popularity of podcasts has encouraged the most creative firms to take advantage of the medium and the trend has exploded this year, with big names like Legal Talk Network providing a new platform for thought leaders in the sector to shine and reach entirely new audiences.
Studies on podcast usage are a lot less frequent, but the latest 2018 study revealed 26% (or 73 million) of North America listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, up from 17% since 2015. With these kind of numbers, it only makes sense for the legal industry to take advantage of this new medium while it’s still growing.
9. Software as a Service
Software as a Service (SaaS) and more powerful mobile hardware has empowered workers in the global legal industry to work with their preferred business applications from anywhere in the world without being tied down to an office or practice setting.
Whether it’s Office 365 or the multitude of legal proprietary software, our smartphones and tablets have helped lawyers and practices remain agile and flexible in their day-to-day work.
As a result of SaaS’s rising popularity, massive law firms like Shearman & Sterling have since adopted more flexible policies allowing associates to work from home for a number of days a month, to positive results.
10. Smartwatches and wearables
The rise of smartwatches such as FitBit and wearable devices like GPS trackers and Bluetooth wireless headsets have always been warmly embraced by law professionals. A U.S based attorney even used the short-lived Google Glass to help solve a case for a client.
2018 has seen a significant uptick in the number of lawyers syncing their wearables to organise their mobile and laptop files and notifications, shifting to an always-on-the-go lifestyle enabled by the increasing sophistication of wearable tech.
Why should I implement these trends?
Digital transformation is restructuring entire industries, including the legal sector, but it’s benefiting the way we do business in meaningful ways. Understanding the power of these ongoing trends is vital to keep your firm ahead of the competition and ready for tomorrow.