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Partnership model and billable hours hinder lawtech adoption

Greater awareness of the potential of lawtech not matched by rate of adoption among law firms

17 February 2019

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Increasing awareness of legal technology among law firms has not led to a commensurate adoption of lawtech among solicitors, a new report has revealed.

The Law Society’s Lawtech Adoption Research report shows a rise in the number of lawtech companies in recent years but suggests a number of obstacles have hindered lawtech adoption among legal practitioners.

Some of the barriers to adoption are fundamental to the industry, the report says, including the partnership model, billable hours, risks around compliance, and varying levels of awareness and confidence.

Nevertheless, the report goes on, “there is a rising awareness in the market that lawtech is important, that the legal market is going to change, and that law firms which adopt technology will have a competitive advantage over those that do not.”

What’s more, the report also indicates that there is increased pressure for law firms to use or enhance the use of lawtech. 

This pressure is the result of several factors including the need for greater efficiency, increasing workloads and complexity of work, juniors lawyers being more tech savvy that their predecessors, and – most importantly – greater client pressure on costs and speed.

And not all law firms are technologically equal. The business-to-business market, for instance, is more mature, particularly within large law firms, where artificial intelligence is integrated into business processes and machine learning driven applications are no common.

These firms confidently use technology to power collaboration tools, document management, IP management and e-billing. And they’re already looking at new  growth areas such as legal analytics, legal project management, governance and compliance and contract management.

The business-to-consumer legal market, on the other hand, seems to be lagging behind, although firms delivering large-scale commoditised services have embraced the potential of lawtech to deliver automation and help drive efficiencies.

“For instance, chatbots, DIY law, robo-lawyers and triage tools are all becoming more common with a greater focus on the consumer experience,”: the report says.

Ultimately, the report concludes, “Lawtech adoption will have significant implications for the future of the law and legal profession with new skills, new delivery models and a new competitive environment all slowly coming into the sector.”

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