2017 has already been a disruptive year for law firms: with industry issues including unstable economies, the decline of the billable-hours model, rise of ‘lawtech’ competition and new demands from the next generation of legal talent.
Luckily, many legal professionals are embracing these changes as opportunities and 2017 has seen a necessary and exciting approach to the reworking of legal setups. The overriding change? A global movement where a conservative industry is finally embracing new technology. As with many other traditional industries today (i.e. accountants, hoteliers, taxis, travel agents, etc.) "platforms" and "automation" are replacing traditional legal practice management methods.
This more open attitude to technology has already proven to be revolutionizing historic structures and is importantly resulting in subsequent practice management hacks that are creating more efficient, productive and lucrative firms. Technology for example was recognized as a key factor in the four Magic Circle firms’ 3.9% turnover and the FT’s Most Innovative Lawyers Awards was noticeably dominated by those using technology to change the future of law firm practice management.
Here we take a look at four major tech-led legal practice management trends 2017 has ushered in and how they are transforming the industry as a whole.
Lawyers on demand
With the global domination and boom of digital brands, pressure to incubate clients’ innovative trial and error nature has seen law firms shift to a more diverse offering of flexible and fixed rate products.
With innovators in this field including the likes of Eversheds Agile, Rockhopper, Lawyers on Demand, Merali Beedle and Pinsent Masons, less rigid legal practice management has enabled private practice lawyers to work in-house full or part time; augmenting client teams during busy periods and creating a growing workforce of high quality interim legal professionals with the credentials and support of established firms.
The knock on effect for practice managers at these companies has been the creation of an optimum formula for hiring and retaining the best legal talent. According to both Deloitte and Consultancy EY, unlike previous generations millennials aren’t attracted by the lifestyle of a high paid, status-driven lawyer whose relentless end goal is to make it as a Partner. So what do they want then?
This new approach to a legal career champions control over working hours, better work-life balance and more freedom to choose projects is not only a driving force for new job seekers but is now an infectious company-wide demand and feature in the legal job market.
Moving to the cloud
New and flexible ‘lawyers on demand’ structures have been largely enabled by recent developments in cloud based software.
Currently 38% of lawyers report to have used web-based services to access emails, documents, and templates such as legal boilerplates. This figure is only set to rise when convenience of use is paired with investment in web hosted programs. Forrester Research has estimated global spending on the public cloud market to reach well beyond $140 Billion this year – up from $87 Billion in 2015.
While individual workers are reaping the benefits of 24/7, secure access to documents, practice managers are simultaneously enjoying cost-effective perks of cloud migration. The scalability of cloud-based solutions mean when offices need to access additional resources they can scale quickly in the cloud and likewise if resources need to be reduced. Nowadays companies can just pay for exactly what they need.
Cloud migration has also brought about a reduction in high IT costs. With cloud hosted content, costly IT services can be avoided in instances such as dreaded and unexpected downtime - a problem that affects 90% of businesses. With no physical servers to host, IT fees are also negated by beneficial access to a cloud provider’s IT department.
The year of automation
Automated document creation software is another of the major legal practice management trends 2017 has seen come into effect - with more and more practices opting to use dynamic templates to save employees time and free up valuable work hours.
Document creation software can apply to anything from email communication to legal boilerplates and provide firms with centralized access to compliant, branded templates complete with up-to-date and best-practice pre-filled details, content, and features.
Advances in system development also mean software can include useful tools that speed up time-consuming processes such as inserting legal boilerplate text and paragraphs, and help prevail over typical formatting hitches. Updates and quick changes can be made by Knowledge Managers or document admins via the cloud-based template management systems. These can then can be easily rolled out on a company-wide and international level at just a click of a button.
THE RISE OF AI
Really upping their automation game, big law firms are taking tech trends a step further by investing heavily in AI programs.
Linklaters’ Verifi program for example is designed to sort through 14 UK and European regulatory registers to check and process thousands of client names overnight - a task that would traditionally require an average search time of 12 minutes per customer name. International law firm Pinsent Masons have seized Brexit uncertainty with both digital hands, rolling out a groundbreaking AI-powered commercial contracts solution to support clients through negotiations.
From discovery exercises in litigation to codifying law, firms across the world like Allen & Overy, ThoughtRiver, Cooley and Riverview have all developed AI software to alleviate legal professionals from mundane, time-consuming tasks so they can focus on the more creative and high value legal management practice trends. 2017 will no doubt continue to see the birth of harder, faster, stronger machine-led software and a subsequent increase in AI generated revenue in the legal sector.
Implementing legal practice management trends
Chances are that you don’t yet have the resources to start building your own signature AI bot. However in just a few clicks, Templafy solutions offer enterprise-wide document creation automation, sophisticated dynamic content updates and and time saving solutions. These include:
Cloud software which allows you to work from anywhere without the need for VPNs or remote desktop sessions while keeping up compatibility with existing legal software such as PC Law, Time Matters, and Primafact
Dynamic templates and forms with up-to-date and best-practice pre-filled details, content, and features, saving you time usually spent assembling documents and improving consistency, accuracy, and the overall quality of your legal work
Solutions to allow fast and secure boilerplate updates that can be rolled out through your firm instantly and administered by your Knowledge Managers as laws change
More power to document admins. Rather than relying on IT experts, template updates can be carried out within minutes and rolled out to the whole firm instantly, ensuring lawyers and support staff always have the most current templates and other content assets at hand - online and locally through the intuitive Templafy interface. Read up more on how this improves workflows and document compliance.
Solutions are available on all platforms and devices too, ensuring businesses are on-brand and users create professional documents faster.
Templafy was launched as an enterprise cloud service in 2014 and has since established itself as a global market leader within its category validated by blue chip enterprise clients on all continents and offices across the globe.
With Templafy, global businesses safeguard their brand integrity and employees create professional and legally compliant documents and emails faster. It’s a solution that marketing, communication and compliance teams can control, that IT can trust and that everyone in an organization loves using day-to-day.