The legal profession is about people and principles, not tools and technology. Even so, digital tools kept the legal services industry thriving when most of its workers stayed home to avoid COVID-19. Now, with a post-pandemic world on the horizon, the industry may face a technology reckoning.
At least 75% of employees in the legal profession worked remotely during the pandemic, according to a Bloomberg Law survey. Many of the attorneys, paralegals and office administrators who worked from home want more of the same.
A Loeb Leadership survey of workers in more than 25 law firms found that 67% want to keep working at home at least a few days a week. That’s in line with surveys finding between one-half and three-quarters of all workers want to maintain some remote status after the COVID threat recedes.
The challenge is that law firms are steeped in traditions of precedent and governance. They’ve earned a reputation for a take-it-slow approach to technology. Sure, thousands of legal pros mastered videoconferencing and instant messaging in the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean they’re on the verge of diving headlong into new generations of technology.
Technology Preferences in the Legal Services Industry
Like people in any industry, legal services pros have a few favorite technologies. The Bloomberg Law survey found that 90% of firms use technology for timekeeping, 88% use it for billing and research, and 59% rely on e-signatures. However, less than half (44%) of firms used collaboration tools that will help them adapt to the new normal of remote work.
What’s holding law firms back? Of the respondents to the Bloomberg Law survey:
- 49% said they didn’t have enough “tech-savvy” users.
- 38% said there wasn’t enough awareness of technology options.
- 34% said they lacked the time required to master new tools.
- 32% cited worries about data security.
While the survey found that technology boosted efficiencies in 90% of the businesses, only 35% of respondents said technology expanded profitability. Just 42% said it helped them log more billable hours.
Fortunately, the best connectivity tools can help law firms address these concerns.
Meeting the Legal Industry’s Post-Covid Technology Needs
Law firms that want to keep their best people have to acknowledge that many want to keep working at home at least a few days a week, if not full-time. Though connective technologies will be key to retaining remote workers, law firms need a holistic approach to adopting these tools.
These guidelines should help legal businesses choose technology wisely in the years to come.
Technology should help firms improve profitability and limit billable hours leakage.
Law firms are grounded in ideas spanning centuries. They seek just resolutions of conflicts between people, institutions and governments.
But in the end, law firms are businesses that need to turn a profit. Moreover, they need to spend as many of hours as possible on billable work. Most firms devote far too much time on tasks that cannot be billed to clients. This billable leakage is the bane of the industry.
The same connective technologies that enable remote work can be fine-tuned to help improve profitability and plug leaks in billable hours.
Legal professionals need easy-to-use tools
Law firms are busy places full of people with priorities that do not include technology. Lawyers build businesses around trusting relationships with clients. Paralegals devote long hours to digging through legal precedents. Office administrators balance budgets and try to keep everything flowing smoothly.
People do not go into law to devote hours a day to dealing with hardware and software. Smaller firms cannot afford the luxury of IT experts with years of training and multiple certifications.
With most of a firm’s staff working remotely on any given day, connective technologies will be critical. These tools must place a priority on simple, intuitive user experiences.
They also need ample training to master these tools
The advent of cloud-based software-as-a-service technology enables vendors to cram hundreds of business-focused features into their offerings. But these options don’t do much good if people don’t know they exist.
This underscores the vital role of training — videos, web pages, webinars, etc. — in helping law firms squeeze every dollar out of their investments in connective technologies. Showing law firm staff how to streamline client services and limit billable leakage can help these tools pay for themselves many times over.
Security is paramount to protecting law firms’ reputations
Law firms handle large volumes of clients’ confidential private data. Their reputations depend on their ability to keep this data out of the hands of hackers and other cyber villains. Moreover, compliance with government privacy and data-protection mandates is central to avoiding malpractice claims.
Connective technologies that encrypt conversations help law firms secure the trust their businesses are built upon. Moreover, advanced password management tools help users lock down their devices and reduce the risk of cyber breaches.
Law firms need a GoTo supplier of connective technologies
These easy-to-use tools go beyond keeping people connected. Unmatched reliability, comprehensive user support and robust feature sets give law firms an edge in capturing more billable hours and elevating their business prospects.