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Looking outside of legal: How can lawyers effectively utilise legal technology?

Legal technology has made huge advancements in recent years and as we look ahead to the rest of 2019, it is sure to be no different. With digitisation and standardisation high on the agenda of many law firms, technology such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come into play with a promise of making document review and legal research, amongst other legal processes, seamless and future-proof.

Regardless of the type of technology deployed by a law firm, challenges are faced when it comes to gaining efficiencies and making it as safe and smart as possible. With this in mind, Graham Haldane, Technical Director, Phoenix Business Solutions outlines three ways a law firm can make the most of its technology function.

  1. Talk to your lawyers

Many law firms have already worked hard to ensure various teams and departments are onboard with the deployment and introduction of legal technology. Working with key users including the lawyers themselves, partners in the firm, trainees, graduates and customers to ensure they understand the technology and how it can help each group individually is the next step. By talking to those who will be affected by the technology, the firm can find out what is actually required; what gap the technology will fill or what challenge it will solve.

Additionally, law firms must continue to embrace change, which should be driven by the customer, not the IT department. It is therefore essential for the IT department to talk to the rest of the business to understand the other challenges they might be facing; from HR, to marketing or even finance.

  1. Focus on the challenge, not the technology

Many firms fall into the trap of seeking a particular technology to implement, without first considering the challenge that needs to be addressed. What is the ultimate goal; are you looking to improve quality or improve costs? If productivity and efficiency tools such as AI are being considered, how will the implementation of this technology affect the rest of the organisation? The legal industry is facing significant pressure to embrace technology; to stay competitive, it’s vital for firms to embrace system automation, improve workflow processes and reduce costs – but deploying legal technology with no strategy behind it will hinder the firm, rather than propel it into the future.

Rather than first approaching the IT team with a particular technology in mind, discuss the issue or challenge being faced and allow your IT team to suggest the best solutions, ensuring it can truly meet the needs of the organisation.

  1. Look outside of legal

What’s happening outside of the legal bubble? Is the firm’s Innovation Committee looking at what other industries are doing to see what practical steps can be taken and what can be learned and applied? Lawyers are risk averse, and always have been, so firms need to work smartly to improve the services, solutions and experiences they deliver. AI is just one example of this; despite causing much excitement in the legal industry in the last year, other industries, such as financial services, logistics and recruitment, have been using the technology successfully to meet business goals for far longer. The mindset therefore needs to change, work with technology partners that have cross-sector expertise and encourage lawyers to seek advice from other industries. Additionally, firms should look to hire board-level executives with a broad range of experience to draw upon to move away from the ‘standard’ way of thinking the law industry has settled into.

Working in harmony

With further innovative technologies expected to enter the market this year, the pace of change in the legal technology space is not set to slow down. Technology will continue to play an integral part in a law firm’s growth and organisational strategy, but it is essential for the IT department and the rest of the firm to collaborate and work out what challenge needs to be solved and what technology is best suited. Those that adopt technology efficiently, safely and smartly, with greater efficiencies as the end goal, will reap the rewards.

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