There is often hesitance to adopt new technology – and for good reason. Adopting new technology causes disturbance to your usual workflow, taking time and energy to change. Adopting technology forces your firm to pause and learn new things. However, on the flipside, ignoring technology and not innovating poses the risk of your firm stagnating, which in the competitive marketplace, has the effect of making the firm fall behind. While both positions come with a pro and a con, one stance is the clear winner, especially to the long-term health of firms. If you’re a solo practitioner or small-firm in 2021, you need to be familiar with legal tech.
First, let’s dispel some of the common objections to adopting legal technology:
“That’s the way we’ve always done things, and it’s always worked for us”
Besides being an ‘appeal to tradition’ logical fallacy, the fact is that it’s not the best idea to look at your firm in a binary. For example, it wouldn’t be a good idea to look at physical health as ‘healthy vs sick’. A more holistic approach to overall wellness (even if you are healthy) is more optimal. This is how you should look at your firm. Sure it may work, but it could be better, and besides, there’s indication that what works now is slowly getting antiquated and won’t work in the future. Some lawyers find it helpful to reappraise their firm with more of a business outlook where you can begin to prioritize business objectives such as profit and growth. While there may be comfort in a certain level of productivity, a certain ROI per employee, and a certain profit margin, legal tech can, and usually does, increase all three of these metrics.
“But how will we train our students?”
Students often sit in a cubicle, drafting boilerplate contracts, and doing tedious due diligence. However, one of our very promising legal-tech solutions automates legal research memos (see it here), eliminating this task for students. This often makes decision makers think: “But how will we train the students? How will they learn?” Again, it makes less sense to appeal to tradition and more sense to conceptualize the other work they could be doing such as learning more about the business side of the firm. In reality the articling students will be the ones using the tools, so rather than look at the tools replacing them, just ensure they are using the tools to assist them. They should also be the ones seeking out tools for the firm to use from a free source such as a legal marketplace for lawyers (like us!): https://www.lumosemarketplace.com/for-lawyers. Students can shadow and gain experience elsewhere rather than doing busywork that can be automated for the sake of doing busywork.
I don’t want to use your product until everyone else does first”
The issue here is that usually, people won’t buy technology until it’s ubiquitous, but it won’t be ubiquitous until people buy it. Thankfully, not everyone has this attitude. That’s why new technology often relies upon early adopters and innovators at the beginning. The majority of the time, this conservatism is wise because if you were the early adopter of every new legal-tech product you would squander the already small budget for your new law firm. The one situation in which being an early adopter can give you a huge competitive advantage is if the technology is niche for a specific service you want to go above and beyond in. I.e. If you are an immigration firm focused on permanent residence applications, invest in tech to automate the intake and eligibility process from foreign applicants. But make that the one piece of tech you invest as an early adopter and market your competitive edge to other immigration firms focusing on your practice area. If your firm falls behind, it's demonstrably harder to catch up with competitors when they’re able to bill out up to 10 hours a day, when you are billing 6, or when they can draft contracts, do research and obtain documents in 1/10 of the time. Their lawyers can increase the firm’s profitability and have better work-life balance in the process.
After dispelling some of your healthy skepticism, now let’s discuss some reasons why you should adopt more legal tech.
Firstly, the legal industry is making the change, and it would be unwise to not follow them. LCO representatives Nye Thomas and Ryan Fritsch, recently spoke about AI and its role in the justice system. In broad terms, the pair spoke about the use and misuse of AI algorithms in the criminal and civil justice systems. Nye Thomas explained that the application of AI tools to the justice system is much further along in its development than people may realize and that these new technologies have relevance in a full breadth of legal demands. In the civil law context, AI has roles in child welfare, allocation of government benefits, fraud detection, public health, and immigration. Currently, the area in which AI is used most extensively is in the criminal justice system, particularly in the United States, where AI tools are employed for national security, predictive policing, and, most notably, in bail. As Mr. Thomas explained, a bail decision is considered by many to be one of the most significant determinations in the criminal justice context. According to some estimates, up to one-third of Americans live in a jurisdiction where AI is used for bail.
In addition (and reaction) to the industry changing, lawyers are too. Mr. Thomas contends as much, arguing legal professionals will need to learn about AI; while comprehensive knowledge of coding is probably unnecessary, a basic understanding of how it works will be invaluable for future lawyers. As he paraphrased a representative at Blue J Legal, “AI won’t replace lawyers, but lawyers who know about AI will replace lawyers who don’t know about AI.”
Here are some avenues to look at when broadening your legal tech horizon:
The global lockdown has fundamentally changed workspaces towards remote working. An unprecedented amount of people now conduct business entirely online, including legal professionals. With other law firms working remotely, and even court hearings now being done over video conferencing, a tech setup that allows for remote working is absolutely essential. These options also have the side-effect of improving your employees happiness by letting them choose how they want to work, but they also help your clients too. If Amazon indicates anything, people would rather clickity-clack at home than drive to their local hardware store these days. They prefer easy online tools.
The results of a survey that MyCase conducted in April indicated that the vast majority of law firms surveyed – 87% – were operating remotely in some capacity. The number of lawyers who are still working remotely continues to be well above pre-pandemic levels, and many larger firms have instituted work-from-home mandates through the end of the year and beyond.
In other words, remote work is here to stay in the short term, and will most likely become commonplace in the long term. Because of the pandemic, many firms now have the necessary technology to enable remote working, and many law firms leaders are also actively considering the benefits of reducing their firm’s footprint by relocating to smaller offices, thus reducing law firm overhead while simultaneously creating a more lean, efficient business.
To put it simply, your competition is increasing with every day as other tech-savvy companies begin to more efficiently capitalize on the marketplace and grow in the process. Even outside sources are now competing for a slice of the pie. Currently, the largest provider of legal services in the world is… Deloitte…the accounting giant. They’ve embraced legal tech to take a huge chunk out of the legal industry.
Security and Privacy
You’d be hard-pressed to find a successful business that doesn’t use email. Electronic communication is not coming, nor has arrived, it’s the standard now. With it, comes demands of cybersecurity. Though it may seem counterintuitive, digital technologies are actually the key to better cybersecurity in this rapidly evolving area of law.
Document Management & Error Prevention
In a global survey, document management ranked #1 for “Legal technology with the greatest impact”. As you know, producing documents is a pretty big part of a lawyer’s day. You also know that mistakes can be disastrous.
Time & Billing Management
Second only to Document Management, law firms look to tech for high-impact help on time and billing management. The right technology can make sure all hours worked on a given matter are captured correctly and efficiently, which is of vital importance. Clients are billed promptly and accurately, and payments are collected reliably. This is a win not only for the firm, but for the client as well.
How do you look for legal technology? It’s simple. Read reviews. Book demos. Try out free trials. Most (if not all!) legal technology companies understand that adopting new technology is a huge step and are willing to give firms a free test drive before buying. Us here at Lumose Marketplace are also here to make this easy.
Once deciding which technology to incorporate into their practice, lawyers quickly see a large difference in how much additional work they can take on. They start making more money. And on a personal level, they’re finding themselves getting home in time for dinner.
How lawyers are using technology and online tools (2020 Survey).
Online legal research
The average lawyer spends 17% of their time conducting legal research.
65% of the lawyers surveyed shared that say they regularly use free online resources to conduct legal research, and 57% regularly use fee-based online tools to conduct research. Also of note is that 38% of lawyers report that they begin their research by running a search online using a free search engine like Google, while 30% tend to start their research using a paid online resource. Another 10% begin with a free legal research service that is available via a bar association partnership.
The most popular paid online legal research service in 2020 was Westlaw, with 49% of lawyers surveyed using it. Next up was Lexis Advance (28%). The top free websites used for legal research were FindLaw (20%), Fastcase (18%), Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (18%), government websites (15%), and Google Scholar (13%).
Social media and legal marketing
80% of lawyers reported that their firms had a presence on social media, with Facebook being the most popular social network used by law firms at 30%.
The majority of lawyers also reported that they personally used social media for professional purposes (80%). The most popular networks used by lawyers for personal online promotion included LinkedIn (90%), Facebook (39%), Twitter (28%), Avvo (18%), and Martindale (15%). Of note was that the lawyers reported that social media participation can sometimes pay off. In fact, 31% of lawyers surveyed shared that they’d had a client retain their legal services as a result of their social media presence.
When it came to law firm marketing, the lawyers surveyed shared that their firms used many different online tools for marketing purposes, with email being the most popular at 40%. Other online marketing tools used included sites like Avvo (14%), Lawyers.com (13%), and FindLaw (13%). Not surprisingly, many lawyers surveyed reported that their firms also continued to rely on more traditional marketing formats as well, including print (30%), direct mail (19%), and the Yellow Pages (12%).
Finally, the survey results indicated that blogging has not gained as much traction with lawyers and their firms. According to the Report, only 30% of law firms maintained a legal blog and only 6% of lawyers personally blogged for business purposes. Large firms were more likely to maintain a legal blog with 74% of firms with 500 or more lawyers doing so. Solo lawyers were at the other end of the spectrum, with only 9% reporting that they blogged.
Notably, however, blogging pays off for those willing to invest the time and energy into it. The survey results showed that nearly half of all bloggers (49%) had been retained by a client as a result of blogging.