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business & marketing

5 Legal Tech Misconceptions That Stop Law Firms From Modernizing

Chris Powers
February 17th, 2021
10 MINUTE READ

Back in 2014, venture capitalists Bob Goodman and Josh Harder (now serving California’s tenth district in the House of Representatives) wrote that the client experience for most law firms had remained stagnant for the past five decades. They argued the billion-dollar legal sector was primed for innovation and, as investors, showcased a few legal tech companies in their portfolio. 

Since that article’s publication, the legal technology sector has blossomed, reshaping the industry’s landscape to appear far different than it was fifty, or even five years ago. But despite the rapid change, we’re still stoutly in the midst of it-the law market hasn’t completely modernized just yet. 

What is legal tech?

Legal tech is an umbrella term that refers to any software or technology geared specifically towards law firms, corporate legal teams, and other legal organizations. Organizations use legal tech solutions to drive process improvements, manage client relationships, provide more efficient legal services, and more. 

The rise of legal tech is largely attributed to the pressing need for legal teams and organizations to embrace digital transformation. To stay competitive in the legal space, organizations need to streamline and simplify the legal process. We’ve seen it in the financial and eCommerce industries as well: cutting-edge technology is transforming how teams get work done. The legal space is no different.

Legal tech misconceptions

No other industry gets a bad rap for being “old school” more than the legal space. Legal institutions are notoriously resistant to change, clinging to manual, time-consuming processes. The legal industry has a long tradition of mountains of paperwork and complex workflows. 

Technology has opened up new opportunities to digitize this paperwork, streamline workflows, and save legal firms valuable time, money, and resources. Modern, scalable systems for managing all aspects of the legal process are becoming the norm. Law firms cannot afford to stay rooted in the past.

But most law firms are still hesitant to embrace new technology. Why?

As a UX design agency whose relationship with user research borders on obsession, Codal attended the American Bar Association’s 2019 Tech Show to learn what obstacles were stopping law firms from embracing new technology (and to show off some of our legal tech solutions as well). 

We discovered there were quite a few misconceptions concerning legal tech circulating. In order to outline the importance of digital transformation in the legal space, let’s examine—and dispel—some of these common misconceptions we hear time and time again from organizations that are apprehensive about embracing legal tech solutions.

Here are five common myths about law firms modernizing, and why they’re exactly that: myths.

“It won’t be profitable for attorneys”

This has been the longstanding response to the mass adoption of advanced legal tech solutions, a falsehood entrenched in the industry’s notoriously traditional old guard. 

And in their defense, it makes sense: most legal experts and law firms bill clients at an hourly rate. If you’re using, say, an eDiscovery solution that turns four hours of work into four minutes, that’s money out of your pocket. 

But when you consider that efficiency legal tech adds to your processes, that profit becomes evident. It betters the attorney-client relationship, as the cost isn’t billed to the client, which results in a healthier, more profitable practice. 

It also helps by allowing talented attorneys to focus their time and energy on the legal work that actually requires their attention, the ones that factor much more in the profitability of their firm than the tedious, time-consuming tasks inherent to the legal process. 

Long story short: what makes a firm profitable isn’t the time spent on the mundane and repetitive tasks—it’s the time attorneys have more energy to distinguish themselves from their competition.

“It’s too risky”

Similar to the profitability of legal tech, many attorneys and law firms balk at the idea of entrusting potentially fallible technology with incredibly high-stakes tasks, decisions, and processes. Even a small technical difficulty could result in disastrous consequences for both the firm and its clients. 

Again, a reasonable argument, but one that misses the point of prudent, intelligent user experience design. Failsafes and redundancies are pillars of a well-designed platform, especially ones used in potentially risky situations. 

Other industries that operate in high stakes situations, where failure is a matter of life and death, have embraced digital transformation in a way the legal sector hasn’t. Airlines, construction firms, and hospitals have all adopted new technology in a way to make themselves safer and less prone to risk. They recognize the need for humans and machines working in tandem and implement a system of checks and balances between the two. 

The same applies to the law sector. Legal technology isn’t here to replace lawyers—in fact, it can’t. Most legal tech solutions exist to streamline the rote and mundane necessities of a lawyer’s workload and to assist in the parts of the job that still require a human. There exists machine error and human error, but entities that pair the two can minimize both.

“It’s only helpful for documentation”

The legal tech solutions I’ve referenced in this article specifically deal with process automation and eDiscovery. These are two of the key areas in the legal sector that Goodman and Harder identified as ripe for innovation, and their prediction proved to be correct—both are by far the most popular applications for legal tech yet. 

Some attorneys then dismiss legal tech as a whole—why pay for newfangled technology when they can get by just fine with a jury-rigged version of Microsoft Excel?

The answer? Because to say that legal tech is only helping with the paperwork aspect of practicing law is to miss its full potential.

Last December, Law.com gathered a few industry experts to predict which legal tech applications would breach into the mainstream. Their answers were well-informed and more importantly, incredibly diverse. 

“Mobile devices will automatically capture email interactions with clients—recovering billable time that used to be lost,” said Alex Babin, of Zero. “The device’s accelerometer will even detect when you’re working or paused. Manual time-entry will go the way of the fax document.”

And Rick Merrill, of Gavelytics, predicted that “legal analytics—and specifically, judicial analytics—can really super-charge a litigation strategy. Very soon, no Am Law 100 litigation department in the country will dare send an attorney into the courtroom without actionable intel on the presiding judge.”

Whether some or all of their prognostications come to fruition, one thing is certain: legal technology is going to be doing much more than automatic filing, very soon.

“It doesn’t matter to the client”

Other than potentially saving costs on their legal bills, many attorneys don’t see how a legal tech solution could directly benefit the consumer. And after all, wouldn’t a client prefer to interact with a human during their legal case than a portal or AI? 

In reality, consumers not only want—they expect—their legal counsel to have the latest tech at their disposal. Take it from Mihui Pak, the vice president of product for legal tech company LegalMation.

“A common complaint of clients, is that they do not want to pay high hourly rates for a junior associate to carry out routine, repetitive tasks. They are, however, willing to pay significantly for the judgement, strategy, and creativity of experienced attorneys. By building products that take care of the routine, repetitive tasks, we are freeing up attorneys’ time and energy and allowing them to focus on higher value work that clients want to pay for and that lawyers actually want to do.”

“That’s just the way we’ve always done it”

Those eight words are the last line of defense when someone stands against change, and I don’t think I have to tell you it’s not a particularly strong defense. The status quo, while comfortable, impedes progress and quashes innovation. 

And this isn’t innovation for innovation’s sake. A recent survey conducted by the Conser Group found that 69 percent of legal professionals reported that their legal technology infrastructure “did not meet their needs.” There exists in the legal sector not a hole to be filled, but a problem to be solved. And as a UX design and development agency, we’re here to help make that happen.

Why is legal tech important?

To stay competitive, legal firms and corporations across the world are now faced with the ambitious goal of updating, streamlining, and transitioning decades of paperwork and processes into innovative and extensive digital platforms. From an audit, to contract management, to litigation, legal tech solutions are essential to streamlining legal service delivery and helping organizations run more efficiently and effectively. While prioritizing privacy and security, legal tech solutions provide for effective automation and increased visibility. Legal tech companies seek to innovate at the intersection of technology, law, customer success, and product development, delivering solutions that forge the future of the legal industry.

Compliance and security

Every day, law firms and legal teams handle sensitive data and information that needs to be safeguarded and out of the hands of hackers. Security breaches need to be avoided at all costs. These days, legal tech can help firms maintain security protocols and best practices using many processes, including:

  • Effective data encryption
  • Activity monitoring
  • Extensive employee background checks
  • Third-party vendor management
  • Data sensitivity analysis

Implementing legal tech can help bolster a firm’s data security posture, making it easy to achieve and maintain compliance—and helping to ensure client confidence.

Efficiency through automation

The legal space has been bogged down by manual, pen-and-paper processes for so long. The promise that legal tech offers is one of efficiency. So much of that manual work can be automated using legal tech, saving firms time, manpower, and—perhaps most importantly—money. 

But while automation in the legal space is achievable, it comes with a key change management component. Numerous firms have grown accustomed to incorporating manual processes—like documentation—into billable hours. These firms might not be so keen on creating efficiencies that could drive down the number of billable hours—and diminish clients’ perceptions of work being completed.

“There is a belief among big law firms that their work is so special that you can’t automate it. [So] it’s making sure whatever tool you select to automate allows the flexibility for lawyers to display their sophistication,” says Jean-Marc Chanoine, global head of strategic accounts at Templafy, a legal document management platform. “The reason you go to a high-end law firm is because they can do the sophisticated, complex work.”

It’s important when embracing automated legal solutions to ensure that the organization is on the same page of how the technology will be implemented and how it will lead to improved customer satisfaction in the long run.

Codal’s extensive legal experience

Codal has worked with multiple legal tech providers to craft solutions for a wide variety of sectors, each one offering a unique set of challenges to overcome through masterful user experience design and development.

Lexicon wanted to scale its pre-existing legal management system for wider use cases and expansion to different international markets. While most legal management systems aren’t scalable at all or cater to just one legal market, our team created a solution that can be scaled for use by small, local practices and the largest, multinational law firms in the world.

Codal also partnered with Proxy to deliver a workflow management platform and legal operations tool for corporate legal departments and the in-house counsel, executives, and outside law firms that support them. The tools allow in-house lawyers to assign, delegate and prioritize tasks, store documents and more. We designed and developed a robust, customizable dashboard and a suite of strong reporting tools for their platform.

Wrapping up

While legal tech is poised to see increased adoption in the coming years, law firms and legal organizations have a lot of catching up to do to match the digital transformation we’ve seen in other industries. It’s clear that a large culture shift will have to take place for large-scale digital transformation to take place in the legal space. At Codal, we’re happy to help usher in that new era, one transformative legal innovation at a time.

Codal’s legal tech solutions can help your business improve and strengthen overall security and compliance. Want to learn more? Get in touch today.

Chris Powers
AUTHOR

Chris Powers

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codal. With a background in journalism and marketing, Chris has written about a variety of tech topics, including open source, fintech, and cybersecurity. Chris loves taking on new challenges with just a pen, paper, and his brain.

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