Appetite for disruption by William Taborn, Riverview Law

This blog post was also featured as a column in the September 2017 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.

There has been considerable change in legal services delivery over the past few years because of technology. Firms now have access to huge amounts of information online, as well as cloud tech, video-link court hearings and automation technologies – including AI, which is becoming more prevalent in the legal sector. But while many firms have grasped the need for change and embraced technology, there are still firms that view it with suspicion – yet the legal sector is ripe for disruption, as demonstrated by Kira Systems, RAVN ACE, ROSS Intelligence and Riverview Law’s Kim.

To understand how to react to this change, firms need to understand what’s driving it. Put simply, it’s driven by consumers. Technology puts power in clients’ hands, and they now want greater transparency and more for less from law firms. Some argue that the 2008 financial crash is responsible for this market-savvy way of thinking, but at most the recession merely accelerated it.

So, looking at the horizon, what do we think the next decade will develop as a result of new tech? As consumers insist on greater clarity, legal businesses will have to ask themselves: How can we deliver the best service in the most efficient way? Technology can help by using management information and collated data to assist businesses in identifying trends and giving them access to real-time data. In this way, firms can make sure that the right person is doing the work, at the right time, for the right price – whether that work is undertaken internally or externally. Driving efficiencies in this way allows lawyers to be pushed higher up the value curve to do more complex work and identify future sales and business forecasts – providing insightful information to the business such as where a contract is in negotiations and the likely date it’ll be signed.

Times are changing and businesses need to be open to changing with them. It is worth noting that we’ve already seen considerable change in the accountancy landscape, including the Big Four offering legal services – it will more than likely filter down.

As a result of this we will see further rises in propositions, including various legal services becoming commoditised – being marketed and priced as a product. Deregulation has already had a commodity impact and the rise of the alternative business structure shows this to be the case. There are several ABSs seriously shaking up the market in various ways and this will drive diversity of legal practice. The prevalence of technology will be the key differentiator.

But the great news is that while technology may be novel in the legal industry, it's well-understood in other sectors. Take ATMs – when they first hit the high streets, many people lauded the death of the bank, but they actually made banks cheaper to run, and able to place people in more specialised positions. The change in the legal industry is growing in intensity. The pressure is on businesses of all sizes to do more with less and to prove the value they deliver is also growing. Law firms that embrace that change and that take the time to understand their client’s value are setting themselves up well for the future. 

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