To clear the air from the
start, the legal sector is not always best known
for its early adoption or widespread deployment of information
technology. The sector prefers traditional processes and practices
and relies on a lot of paper-based operations such as journals,
books and handwritten letters. So, compared to some other sectors,
the leap towards digitisation is even bigger.
I find this
gradual and unhurried approach to legal technology
adoption rather surprising for three main reasons:
- Legal professionals are a highly skilled and educated
workforce, so adopting new technology shouldn’t be difficult for
- Due to the volume of paper-based processes, the
legal sector is the perfect use case to see
the benefits of digitalisation.
- The legal
sector already exchanges large data and information
with many other organisations across many sectors.
No matter how you slice it, the case for legal technology
is clear. So, what is inhibiting the adoption of digital
technologies in the legal sector and stopping the
progress of digital transformation ?
One challenge is that the IT function
within the legal trade has a very daunting task: the expectation of
delivering a ‘white glove’ service for uptime, availability and
performance often within a tight budget and time window. Given these
constraints, IT departments can find it difficult to innovate and
evolve at the pace they desire.
Secondly, a large amount of
legal practices run as partner-owned operations, not publicly listed
companies. This means they can, understandably, tend to be more risk
averse when it comes to adopting bleeding edge technology. Many also
often consider the old adage, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
But change never happens overnight and it is positive to see
that many legal firms are recognising the need to adapt to the
So, what can be
Anthony Stables, the CIO at Forsters LLP says it
best, “Making a change to the expectation of how that high touch
service is delivered is the only way that law firms can bring about
far greater efficiency in IT support. Money does most of the
talking: the best IT Directors / CIOs will be able to convince the
partnership that a change to the method of service delivery can save
them money without detriment to the level of service, but this has
to be proved and you’ll only get one chance to prove it.”
The solution starts with a reinvention at the core. Instead of
trying to implement a digital solution into a primarily paper-based
industry, legal firms must look at the whole operation and take a
services-centric technology approach.
One gateway to
digital technology is for IT teams to introduce an automated
self-service portal for IT support, encouraging
law professionals to move away from phoning a support engineer and
instead helping themselves through self-help articles or tutorials
when a machine or device goes down.
Arming legal workers
with self-service portals and virtual agents
could not only free up IT engineers, but also empower employees to
engage more with automation – interacting with new services,
building more connected legal workforces, and demonstrate immediate
benefits. Seeing the benefits of automation for themselves will help
teams to seek out more and instigate further change in the business.
For example, as a next step, legal practitioners could deploy
chatbots for client requests out of hours or to
automate certain processes. Chatbots would work
particularly well in situations where legal professionals are
switching to costing work based on project delivery, instead of by
the hour, and so require more rigidly quantifiable work processes
that are digital and service-based to streamline delivery.
approach is key. As long as technology changes have a reliable IT
support mechanism then improvements and buy-in will only grow.
Foundations are key
Taking this type of approach
avoids the ‘lift and shift’ approach (not recommended for any firm,
or any vertical) and helps to show the benefits of legal
technology without disrupting businesses on a large
Even though the legal sector is
slower to adopt some of the latest technology trends like
chatbots and self-service portals ,
they can start laying the ground work to develop solid foundations
with the use of data and information intelligence. I look forward to
observing the progress of digital transformation
in the legal sector .