Becoming legally-trained management consultants and undertaking chargeable legal project management aren’t the only ways lawyers can respond to ‘new law’ threats. Having a response is, however, critical.
Growing awareness of the capabilities of legal technology and adoption by the legal industry means it is inevitable matters will be run with ever-increasing efficiency. Lawyers who don’t adopt the latest time-saving software will always find themselves being undercut in competitive tenders. But there’s more lawyers can do than simply engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ on price.
1. Be technology specialists
Technological solutions offer exceptional opportunity, even the simple ones. That’s good news for a largely technophobic industry. Blindly following competitors into acquiring the latest software isn’t true innovation though. Why not instead:
- Become known as the specialists in a particular technology. For instance, automated document review systems can improve their efficiency by being ‘trained’ by lawyers on real transaction documents. Hence early adopters like Slaughter & May and Linklaters are gaining a considerable competitive advantage over late-coming peers.
- Develop proprietary software for internal use. Have you tried listening to your lawyers? There are plenty of lawyer bugbears just waiting to be automated. Gilbert + Tobin’s automated boxing tool and Corrs’ patented OCR-tool, JustOCR, are great illustrations of the internal innovation emerging from large law firms.
Critically, by deploying software unique to your firm – or using existing products better – firms can insulate themselves from the threat of new law and distinguish themselves from old law competitors.
2. Get automating
Despite naysaying from lawyers, running through a precedent checklist is a task capable of automation. Proofreading is a task capable of automation. Receiving client instructions and matter opening can all be automated. It’s worth investigating the many applications firms are creating with Neota Logic such as King & Wood Mallesons’ Foreign Investment Review Board tool, or considering legal technology start-up Josef, a specialised chatbot builder for the legal industry. Much more is possible too. English magic circle and silver circle firms are true innovators in this space – you can learn how by reading our two part series (Part 1 and Part 2).
Importantly, developing these tools require existing firms to leverage their significant intellectual property resources in precedents, policies and matter documents, and the collective human capital of the firm. It’s little wonder why only the largest – and most prestigious – firms are beginning future-proof themselves by dabbling in the legal technology space.
‘New law’ start-ups can’t – in the short term – erode such a competitive advantage.
3. Questions to ask
For a creative introduction to how legal practice might be transformed, lawyers should ask themselves:
1. Which existing processes are repetitive and time-consuming?
6. Could your clients use legal software you have developed?
7. Would a tool to enable expensive subject specialists to more efficiently complete matters be better than one to enabling a task to be completed by paralegals?
There are many possibilities.
Unless lawyers adapt to this new legal paradigm, matters will continue to evaporate as new law businesses use superior technology and business processes to deliver a better result, for less money, while delivering a more pleasant customer experience.