Legal Workflow discusses the shape of law firms in the digital age

Law firms are faced with some tough challenges in the Digital Age. The government’s “digital by default” policy, together with the expectations of clients, is making digitisation a necessity rather than an indulgence. Today’s question is no longer “if” or “when” to digitise but “what” and “how” to digitise.

Do law firms need to fear this change?

Most firms are part-way there already, making increasing use of practice management and case management solutions. But so often, the ROI (Return on Investment) on such technologies is only partially realised because systems are not yet fully optimised.

So where would you like to see better optimisation in your law firm’s case management and practice management systems?

Most firms have case management for at least residential conveyancing, but it may stop there.  Even where “out of the box” conveyancing workflows from the supplier are in place, they are seldom up to the job. To make the difference for a department between being profitable or not, the workflows must maximise automation.

What about other departments?  Do you have fully functional case management in place for probate, wills, lasting powers of attorney, personal injury, other civil litigation, debt recovery, family, employment and commercial property?

It can seem daunting to put these systems in place, as you need either a dedicated in-house team with both the technical and legal knowledge to create the workflows, or to draft in external assistance.  External help tends to be of the techie kind, i.e. they will produce the workflows you ask them to create, but much is often lost in translation, with disappointing results.

Finally, many practice management systems were originally created decades ago. Although kept up to date, they can be hampered by limitations in the original software, so that scope for integration with third party software and making use of online capabilities is stunted.

The solution is lawyer led technology …

Led by a practising solicitor with over 30 years’ experience, including in partnership, we know your pain points and how to solve them. Our consultative approach means we will help you introduce processes that you may not have considered, leading to greater efficiency and profitability, happy clients and personnel.

It’s no longer just about workflows.  Why do you have to enter the same data more than once, in your case management system, at the Land Registry, the Courts Service, Companies House, HMRC, etc?  Not all of these bodies are open to integration, but increasingly they will become so, under the government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy.  We already save firms hundreds of hours in extracting data from the Land Registry and populating case management data fields with the results, rather than applying for office copies on a case by case basis.

We work with other third party software suppliers and integrate their systems with yours.  If processes can be automated, we will automate them because otherwise you’re missing a big trick that your competitors might not be missing.

What about online legal services in your firm?

Is online access to legal services just a distant nirvana for your clients? It’s certainly an expectation of both our bright young lawyers and our younger clients – and by “younger” we mean under 60, not 16!

But how achievable is it?

The technology is already well established, although its adoption remains primitive in the majority of cases.  It’s perfectly possible for your clients to interact with you online, being asked only the questions that are relevant to their case (using conditional logic behind the scenes), pushing the data into your case management applications and kicking off workflows to produce documents and communications automatically.

Your clients will increasingly expect this in our any-time, any-place world, which means you can earn fees while you sleep!

And what about AI?

There’s a lot of hype out there, but make no mistake, AI is going to make a big difference to the way legal work is done.  We’re already working with AI partners to deliver these services to law firms. Come and meet us at LegalEx in March 2018 – on stand 360 or for our presentation “Online Legal Services and Artificial Intelligence” where we will be making some interesting announcements.

If you’re looking for better ROI from digitising your firm’s processes or for innovation in online legal services and AI, then keep watching this space.

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