Continuing to evolve tech adoption in the legal profession

All of us have seen the acceleration of technology adoption since the first lockdown of March 2020, particularly in the legal profession.

Overnight everyone had to work differently, as traditional practices adapted just to survive. Technology became our lifeline, our only way to connect and our only way to work.

Barriers to change quickly disappeared as many were forced to make changes in weeks that may have previously taken years to implement.

The past few months have moved very quickly, now as we emerge, we have the opportunity to take more time to consider how different technologies can be incorporated into practices. Now is a great time to take stock of what you are doing, and what technology is available to ensure your organisation is best prepared to adapt and thrive going forward.

But before looking ahead to some technology trends for 2022, I want to focus on some other fundamental aspects of your business alongside technology.

People, Process and then technology

For me it has always been people, process and then comes the technology. Too often we can get caught up in innovation being just about embracing technology, believing it will solve the problem. Technology is simply an enabler – not a solution in itself.

Before considering any new technology, be clear about what you need to achieve to meet your business goals – and if technology can enable you to do this.

Consider how well placed your organisation is for innovation before adopting new technology – work to build a culture that will embrace change where people are curious and open to trying new things.

Everyone will be at different stages of their innovation journey. For some this may be simply building on the experience of working from home with zoom and other technology. Technology adoption does not need to be complicated or daunting, and in a truly short time many have experienced first-hand how technology can be utilised to greatly enhance how they operate.

Do not get disheartened with your technology journey as not everything works first time! It is important that we learn from this, adapt and improve. An incremental approach may be the solution, continually making small changes to how you operate.

Always continue to ask how can we do this better?

What comes next?

As far as technology trends in 2022, it will be more continual change – taking advantage of the strides made since that initial lockdown.

Legal tech has become integral to the delivery of legal services, as it enables lawyers to do things better, cheaper and faster. And, there will be further automation of administrative tasks that are repetitive, time consuming and costly – all through the assistance of technology, freeing up lawyers to spend more time working with their clients to create better outcomes.

How you access case law, research, manage documents, dictate, bill and communicate is all changing. Technology continues to be a game changer for conveyancing, research, wills, Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) and company searches, together with using data to help make better business decisions for you and your clients.

At the heart of the continual change will be the role of the cloud and artificial intelligence, enabling a more client centric approach.

Cloud adoption

One of the lasting impacts of Covid has been the drive of the legal profession to embrace and use cloud technology. Some turned to zoom, whilst others recognised the necessity to have access to all their systems and documents through the power of the cloud – no matter where they are physically located.

The cloud has made technology a lot more accessible, scalable and secure to a wider audience. For many it has taken the impacts of COVID to appreciate the value of cloud enabled technology.

Cloud adoption will continue to increase further as we move into 2022 and beyond.

The rise of artificial intelligence

I also expect to see more use of artificial intelligence (AI) as the advantages become clearer.

Traditionally, the legal profession has been slow to adopt new technologies, let alone AI. One notable exception has been the adoption and success of AI that’s used to improve the discovery process.

You can no longer justify eyeballing every document, nor is it possible in most cases. The skill is to come up with methods and leverage the use of technology to get rid of what you don’t need so that you can devote your energies at only looking at what matters most. AI has enabled this dramatic shift to a process that has traditionally been a costly and time-consuming exercise.

AI is no longer just a thing of the future to be feared, or the central villain in a sci-fi flick. It’s all around us already. Look at Netflix, Spotify and Amazon – they all give you recommendations based on your previous choices. We all use Google which is based on an algorithm that continues to learn from our internet behaviour.

So why not embrace these tools to help the practise of law?

Client centric innovation

Throughout 2022 we will continue to see legal professionals be more client-centric in how legal services are delivered, particularly as clients’ expectations change.

Greater business innovation will help to deliver more affordable legal services for a wider community. Leveraging technology can also help provide greater access to justice for those who may not always seek legal services due to cost. This is starting to be provided by non-traditional sources, which include ‘robo-advice’ and ‘chat-bots’ for straightforward legal problems.

More legal services will continue to be commoditised, whilst others will explore new business models and pricing structures to help their organisations practise law more effectively. A greater number of legal products and services are being sold online, helping to create new revenue streams.

Keeping abreast of the technology

Just as we have moved fast to embrace technology, we cannot stand still as technology continues to race ahead. Keeping up to date with what’s possible and how it can benefit you is an increasingly important skill for any business owner.

Even if you are content with your existing technology, it is crucial to continue to explore what else is out there, and how it may be able to help you deliver legal services to your clients.

Today there are significantly more technology options available to the legal profession, even compared to just five years ago. At the same time, there has been considerable growth in the number of local legal technology providers, with many of the New Zealand start-ups emerging in the past few years.

These include (and of course are not limited to) the likes of LawVuActionstepVxtLawHawkCloudcheckFirst AMLAPLYiD and Spinika emerge to provide solutions. Even though these start-ups have New Zealand origins, a number now provide their solutions globally. See the leading legal technology product and service solutions available in New Zealand here. 

Many of these start-up solutions have been lawyer-led, or led by people who have worked inside legal organisations that are intimately aware of pain points for lawyers and their clients. They have developed solutions to meet these problems – ultimately making lawyers more efficient and to better meet the demands of their clients.

As we move into 2022 and beyond, there will be more technology options available to help with how legal services can be delivered.

It is important to remain curious and open to change, constantly evaluating the technology that is available to help us adapt how we work. We are already starting to see organisations investing in innovation or business transformation roles as they see the importance of continuing to innovate and leverage technology. These roles will continue to evolve further as organisations look to better meet the needs of their clients.

Making the most of 2022

Covid has demonstrated that the legal profession can adapt and work differently.  As we move forward, we can continue these great strides to innovate through leveraging technology, to deliver more efficient legal services.

2022 may be the year we can finally settle back into more normal routines, but the changes we have lived through will continue to influence how we work. We now know that it’s possible to lose access to your office overnight. Your office needs to be accessible and with you at all times.

Make 2022 the year to address that question about how you can do things better, ensuring that technology is at the heart of the answer whilst not being the only answer.   

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTech Hub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/)

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