How to combine technology and legal expertise in the digital age
Norma Harris presents ways technological advancements can benefit the workload of legal professionals
Welcome, lawyers, to the digital age of law! This transformative era has been reshaped by technology, not only to make your life easier but also to revolutionize the delivery of legal services.
Gone are the conventional days when going to law school, passing the bar, building a legal career, and retiring at a fixed age were the norm. In this modern landscape, technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), has advanced to the point where modern software can automate processes, streamline communications and even facilitate relevant casework for lawyers.
A recent McKinsey report reveals that existing technology can automate approximately 23 per cent of the work done by lawyers. This automation frees up valuable time and efforts, allowing professionals to focus on more strategic and high-value tasks. It can also help offer clients superior, faster and more personalized legal solutions.
However, despite the numerous benefits that technology brings, lawyers need to find a middle ground that balances advancing technologies with their legal know-how.
Striking a balance
Legal tech has revolutionized the legal profession by streamlining tasks and making law firms more cost-effective. With just a few clicks, lawyers can now access contract review, legal research, evidence gathering, and even case outcome predictions.
AI could enable quick processing of thousands of legal documents that would have taken weeks or months for humans. Embracing technology is crucial for bringing positive change to the legal work. However, that still doesn’t mean overlooking traditional study and practice.
We've highlighted the importance of finding a balance between leveraging legal technology and while maintaining a strong foundation of legal expertise. Now, let's explore how you can achieve this balance:
As a lawyer, it is beneficial to stay updated with the latest legal technology trends and developments. This can involve attending seminars, conferences and webinars focused on legal tech. It can also direct you in choosing the right emerging tools, software and platforms that can enhance your practice.
Studies show that the LegalTech market is expected to reach $69.7bn by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 8.9 per cent from 2022 to 2032. So, understanding how different technologies function and their potential benefits will enable you to complete your tasks faster and perform better.
Continuous learning is the key
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” - Anthony J. D’Angelo
Whether it is spending time learning new legal tech or reading new legal books, lawyers can benefit highly from enhancing their technological skills and knowledge. This can include exploring various online legal databases, research tools and digital resources that provide efficient access to case law, statutes and legal precedents.
Understanding various technologies and their potential benefits enables lawyers to make informed decisions on which tools suit their specific needs and practice areas best.
Continuous learning cultivates adaptability and resilience in lawyers. As the legal industry undergoes constant transformations due to technological advancements, actively engaging in learning prepares lawyers to adapt to change and seize new opportunities.
Evaluate your practice needs
To optimize your practice, assess your requirements and identify areas where legal technology can streamline processes, boost efficiency and provide valuable insights. Here are some key areas where legal technology significantly impacts your business:
- Identify repetitive and time-consuming tasks that can be automated or streamlined using technology, freeing up valuable time and resources.
- Practice management: look for areas where technology can help improve the efficiency of your practice. For instance, practice management software can centralize client information, track billable hours and manage deadlines, enabling better organization and streamlined workflows.
- Explore technology solutions that assist with compliance management and data security.
Besides technology, you can also opt for legal outsourcing services to manage document review, legal response, incident response and contract lifecycle management.
Evaluate and implement
Before implementing any legal tech solution, it’s important to comprehensively evaluate the various options in the market. For instance, Relatively, Disco, MyCase, Leap, LexisNexis and Clio are some of the more popular software platforms. Consider the following factors to make an informed decision:
- Usability: assess how user-friendly and intuitive the legal tech solution is. Consider factors such as the interface design, ease of navigation and the learning curve involved.
- Security: since legal matters often involve sensitive and confidential information, security is of utmost importance. Evaluate the security features, including data encryption, access controls and compliance with industry standards such as GDPR or HIPAA.
- Cost: assess the cost of the solution, both upfront and ongoing. Consider factors such as licensing fees, maintenance costs and any additional expenses associated with implementation, customization and training.
- Compatibility: evaluate how well the solution integrates with your existing technology infrastructure and workflows to minimize disruptions and maximize efficiency.
Balance automation and human expertise
While legal tech can automate routine tasks, human validation is still important. You can implement technologies to streamline processes and boost in-house teams’ productivity, but keep a human eye on the results. Also, get legal documents and research thoroughly reviewed and validated by those with the required legal expertise.
Thriving as a tech-savvy lawyer
To truly thrive as a tech-savvy lawyer, it's important not only to choose the right technology but also to maximize its potential. The goal is to leverage technology to save time, allowing you to dedicate more hours to substantive legal work. By striking a balance, you can achieve the following:
Charge Flat Fees:
When technology automates certain aspects of your work, you can shift from billing hours to charging flat fees. Let's consider the example of two trademark lawyers, Emma and Michael:
- Emma charges a flat fee of $500. She utilizes technology for client intake and automatically generates filing documents, completing the task in under an hour.
- Michael, on the other hand, bills at a rate of $300 per hour. He also employs the same technology but takes a full hour to complete the task.
Emma's effective billable rate for the task is $200 higher than Michael's, as she sells the entire transaction rather than billing based on hourly rates. In this case, both lawyers use the same technology, but Emma demonstrates true tech-savviness by adopting a different billing approach.
Enhance Client Experience through Technology:
When you save time and streamline processes with technology, you can focus more on delivering an exceptional client experience. Your legal software is your toolkit, enabling you to compete with your peers by providing efficient and effective services.
Consider utilizing Relativity, Disco, Clio, and LexisNexis software to streamline document review, case management, and scheduling. This will not only increase transparency with your clients but also helps build a stronger lawyer-client relationship.
By harnessing technology effectively, you can position yourself as a tech-savvy lawyer, delivering excellent client experiences while optimizing your billing structure for increased profitability and success in the legal profession.
Norma Harris is a senior paralegal at Legal Support World legalsupportworld.com