Digitalisation and Law Firms: An Open Conflict
When thinking about digitalisation in the workplace, the consensus is that law firms have historically not been interested in this kind of process. Many law firms have seemed reluctant in accepting such changes. However, the investments recently made to promote digitalisation in this field contradict this preconception and the United Kingdom (UK) has seen record levels of investment in law tech companies in the last five years, reaching £61m in 2018.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, what was previously seen as a faculty has suddenly become a necessity. In a period in which remote working has been mandatory to reduce the spread of the virus, law firms have seen, for the first time in their history, how vital digitalisation is and its advantages in terms of cost reduction.
The steps made in the last years, namely the huge investments and the new necessities arising from the pandemic, have undoubtedly fostered innovation in this irksome field, but many more steps will need to be taken to digitalize the legal world.
Challenges Faced by Firms
The legal industry is often viewed as conservative and less inclined to change. It is a well-established industry that has been the same for centuries and it continues to be taught the same way too. Therefore, bringing about a change can be a challenge. However, in the present circumstances, digital transformation is imperative and relevant. Fortunately, the younger generation of lawyers are generally more informed and welcoming to innovative technology because they have grown up in an era of constant digital innovation. Therefore, it would be safe to say that they will bring about digitization in their own time.
Despite this lack of digital innovation, the legal industry has remained modern and client focused. However, the situation has changed now that digitalization is unavoidable. Law firms and in-house counsel will now have to change their approach to the intersection of law, business, and technology. LawTech provides a tool that eases the research process by providing internet research platforms with updated information, the platform for document and contract management to automate and simplify the process of creating templates or content analysis, and legal chatbots for better customer experience. Law firms will have to set budgets to engage in AI and other technology along with an allocation of sufficient time to provide the requisite training to fully adapt to the technology. This step is an essential one, as lack of training and knowledge creates unfamiliarity and lawyers go back to the ‘tried and tested’ methods.
Another factor that is a huge challenge in legal tech is the excessive cost and lack of trust in the accuracy and the complexity of the technology. These pose a major barrier to the proper implementation and use of technology in the legal industry. These challenges also discourage firms from investing in digitalisation.
The issues mentioned above will have to be addressed to minimise the gap between law and technology and fully tap into the undiscovered potential of digital tools in the legal industry.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Digitalisation must be eased into the legal world which is possible but will take time. Technological advancement will ensure better access to legal professionals as well as clients and help in improving the provided services. We would like to recommend two principal elements that can be seen as steppingstones for achieving the common goal:
- Just like we need commercial awareness, there is a need for technological awareness amongst legal professionals to get comfortable with legal tech and be able to provide much better services to the clients. Companies and firms need to take it upon themselves to provide training to all professionals. The training can also be provided from the initial stages by ensuring early exposure to such technologies and making them a part of the legal education curriculum.
- Involving skilled technology and digital experts is a crucial step for the legal industry to be able to adapt and grow with the changing technology.
Firms have started to embrace and understand the benefits of legal tech, but the legal industry is still slow to digitise, and it needs to adapt before it is too late.
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