Impact of Technology on Legal Professionals in 2023
We all have experienced a positive change in our lives brought on by the advances in data sciences, supply chain management, information technologies, legal technologies, and more. Yet, those software advances have influenced our society as much as the physical technology we hold. For attorneys, that is a different story.
In this article, we will explore the ever-advancing legal technologies, a.k.a. the legaltech sector, and discuss how it affects the practice of law in the United States. You’ll learn some definitions of legal technology, key advances in the areas that improved the legal field, and the top five ways legaltech has changed the legal industry.
What Is Legaltech?
As legal professionals, we come from every area of law and have at least once heard talks around the question, “what is legaltech?” Often confusion arises from how we define standard terms and legal technologies. To help avoid this issue, we will spend some time explaining legal technology and related words.
Legaltech. It references a broad group of digital tools and mechanisms, both software, hardware, virtual, and cloud-based software used in practicing law.
Office software. It refers to proprietary informational technology solutions processing the received information in any way desired, such as intake, storage, communication, drafting, accounting, and many other purposes.
Integration software. A legal integration automation software is an IT bridge developed specifically to assist in transmitting data from one repository to another and/or translating the information into a different format.
Communication software. These solutions focus on transmitting information from any person or entity to the attorney or vice versa.
Customer relations management (CRM) software. CRMs use metrics and predictive algorithms to optimize your client relationship through various modes of communication.
Automation software. It is intended to increase efficiency through pre-programmed, repetitive workflows.
Compliance software. This IT solution is designed to filter various documents and information transfers through the lens of a specific statutory regulation.
Rise of Legaltech and the Evolving Law Firm
Attorneys have traditionally been slow to adopt new legal technology because the U.S. justice system itself is old-fashioned. Things began to change when U.S. states implemented electronic document management software or EDMS. Once that occurred, the need to digitize documents for court submission opened the floodgates of legaltech, becoming more widely adopted.
There is a spectrum of legal technology being implemented within the legal field. Some states have mandated essential digital communication and compliance, and that is where many solo practitioners will stop adopting legal technology. Those who thrive in more digital space are on the other side of that spectrum. Innovative firms function nearly paperlessly rather than worry about lost physical documents. Such offices strive to meet all their service and client obligations without physical signatures.
By law, every attorney must keep their clients’ files for a prescribed time. Some states allow for purely physical files, and others enable more digital format recordkeeping. This has played a role in some of the slow legal integration automation software adoptions in the lawyer environment. No attorney enjoys wasting space for storing physical files and would rather utilize that space for another associate.
Importance of Legal Technology
The article has described ways of defining and viewing the gamut of where a law firm may be on its path of adopting legal technology. Let’s discuss the importance and positive influence of legaltech.
Increased effectiveness of attorneys
Legal technology has significantly impacted the effectiveness of attorneys and their support staff in improving the services offered to their clients.
Less strain on human resources
Increasing the utility of each staff member with legal technologies freed human resources. Most of that extra time recovered went into staff cross-training. That allowed different staff members to step into another employee’s shoes for various reasons.
Improved quality of services
The other fantastic effect of legaltech has been the service quality improvement within a law firm.
When legal technologies can increase your efficiency, you have more time to spend on personal wellness. That may sound unimportant, but in states like Iowa, some years, the burnout rate could be as high as five years from initial licensure. Legaltech has lowered that rate substantially.
That’s how important legaltech has become across the U.S.
What Technologies Do Law Firms Use?
Law firms have adopted the use of a wide variety of legal technologies. Law firms have leveraged their might within the tech sector, from integration & automation software to cloud computing, artificial intelligence, to data forecasting. In this section, the article will briefly mention the most prominent legal technologies that law firms currently employ.
This form of legal integration automation software does not require a physical space within the proximity of the professional for it to exist. One merely needs technology to access and utilize it via an internet browser. The most-used cloud-based legal technology is not even designed for the law. Instead, calendar synchronization was created for the general public to keep track of important dates. For attorneys, important dates, such as statutes of limitation, are crucial for risk management.
Integration & automation software
Most law firms keep a log of all calls and correspondences. This includes intakes, non-representation letters (rejections), and invoicing. Law firms now invest heavily in legal integration automation software that makes many of these derigor processes seamless. This frees up the brainpower of staff by avoiding data entry and transfer.
This has a much sexier name than it does a function. In short, artificial intelligence is a form of machine learning. For example, request the task of identifying the best way to increase conversion rates of mass solicitations. The software may prescribe several models, recommend mailing schedules, and other nuances based on the feedback it receives. This multi-level functioning is enormously time-consuming and overlooks AI’s greatest attribute — pattern spotting. AI is commonly used in multiple innovative legal integration automation software solutions.
Pattern-spotting perfectly segues into the topic of legal tech’s foray into data forecasting. This integration automation software takes several of the patterns identified by AI or humans and outside data sets regarding demographics and market forces to create a more complex algorithm. Forecasting is another way of describing a form of statistical prediction. These complex mechanisms are excellent for law firms interested in the legal technologies predicting the likelihood of a set of outcomes or identifying a specific course of action. It is better to outsource this task to a third party than do it yourself because of the required time.
How Technology Is Revolutionizing the Legal Sector
As a caveat, it is not the most revolutionizing facet of legal technologies, but it is worth describing due to its relative ubiquity. It would be a misconception to state that legaltech is less than 20 years old. Many law libraries quickly sprung up, offering different research capabilities. That need for the research came sooner than EDMS and other innovations. Its importance to all parts of legal services made it the quickest and most widespread legaltech tool to be adopted broadly.
Automation and integration are the twin juggernauts of legaltech. Each of these improvements in software meant a whole litany of tasks that employees and staff did not have to toil away doing. It also made the ability for attorneys to optimize their services. A document that may have taken many hours to rework for the needs of a specific client may be automatically updated via the integrated intake software. The impact cannot be understated.
5 Ways Technology Is Changing the Legal Profession
Legaltech affects almost every area of legal practice. However, let’s review the five most significant changes.
In the past, attorneys in most states could not solicit new clients apart from the mail, let alone advertise to people directly. In my state, attorneys were not allowed to advertise until the 1990s. Many other states even enable direct marketing to the public. This factor masks the integration automation software innovations that have revolutionized the legal industry. This includes instant messaging on websites, websites in general, private document libraries for clients on firm websites, newsletters informed through CRM software, and automated correspondences to various parties.
Litigation entered a new phase with the development of electronic records and digital recordkeeping. Electronic communications alone between two corporate parties can number in the tens of thousands of pages. Combing through all of that potential evidence, known as eDiscovery, can be mind-numbingly painstaking, but for innovations in legal technology. The most important one is the optical character reader or OCR. It allows computer algorithms to search for phrases and refine the difficult-to-read text.
Legal technologies can automate many daily processes and functions of a law firm. Once automated, a firm can divert that human capital to completing a different task. Interestingly, those other tasks require greater personal autonomy, and learning new skills often brings a sense of purpose to law firm teammates.
This overlooked legal technology innovation needs its day in the sun. As our industry continues to utilize more and more software to accomplish our services, data transfer starts to arise. Some programs “talk well between one another.” Others require bootstrapping and other rough and expensive customized integrations. The pandemic has incredibly impacted improving software integrations to reduce data flow issues. This has diminished workloads and overhead costs immensely.
The bane of many attorneys is the dreaded feeling of missing a deadline. Every state and jurisdiction follows a prescribed set of rules known as the rules of civil procedure or criminal procedure. These rules state exactly how many days each document must be filed with the Clerk of Court. As we became less attached to our desks, keeping one’s calendar up-to-date became more of a risk. Therefore, the advent of the self-updating and auto-synchronizing calendar system reduced risk enormously for attorneys. This is probably one of the most prized components of legal technology.
Why Attorneys Resist Technology
Many attorneys continue to resist legal integration automation software. There are often two main reasons:
- Perception of technology as proof of personal obsolescence; and
- Technology is more of a burden than a tool.
Both of these are genuine fears that should be addressed by professionals that are reticent to adopt legaltech. Explain that adopting new software is intended to empower legal professionals to help more people rather than make them look bad or fail.
What Is Legal Analytics? Legal analytics is the application of data science to the business and practice of law. It is an umbrella...
Every law firm has different needs for what is legaltech meant to solve. Those needs should dictate the areas for optimization that legaltech may be able to fill. Legaltech is not a thing to abstain from, but rather something to embrace and allow to grow your business.