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Are Law Firms Engaging More with Legal Tech?

/ Technical
July 6th, 2015

are law firms engaging more with legal tech?

I was asked this question the other day and had an enjoyable discussion about it so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts.

In this blog, I’m talking in general terms outside of the ‘Magic Circle’. Technology turns off most business people, partners included, in the main. I don’t understand why so many technology firms in the legal sector fail to grasp this concept.

Even when you turn up and say “this product’s going to make your super effective because of XYZ” they’ll often switch off.  They’ve heard it all before and been burnt by expensive and bad solutions in the past. Or because they are just confused by the numerous options. This is why there is so much of a ‘herd mentality’ in legal. I always find it a little strange that so many plod together, but I can tell you this will change, and rapidly, as the space comes truly competitive- basically like every other sector. Change is going to come so fast, but it’s not the technology that needs to lead it. The processes and models need to drive the change.

If I hear cloud, big data and AI many more times I’m going to explode. It’s boring for me, let alone lawyers having tech rammed down their throat in every email and publication. You are just talking about tools, and who cares about tools? Nobody except techs care about tools. I don’t care that my plumber has a new wrench with better grip, so why should ‘business leaders’ in law firms? Yes, these technologies may add value to a firm but many won’t until they are mature or integrated into a wider ‘business solution’ driven by a defined business strategy. Sure you may attract a partner’s attention with a fancy new mobile device, but often that’ll be the wrong device to really support a mid/long-term strategy.

Many firms will not truly engage technology until they have up-skilled general business improvement. Be that ISO, Lean Six Sigma, intelligent outsourcing etc. Technology is easy in general. Yes, there are exceptions, but generally, it’s easy when the business case and requirements are clear and championed by leadership. This needs to happen before the technology can really add its value. It’s surprising how many firms don’t have standard operating procedures. Or they don’t really review and develop them. This is pretty scandalous when most operations in legal are process driven.

In short, my message is that technology is not relevant without leadership, evaluation and analysis. You’ll see a rise, very quickly, and also many new entrants now the sector is opening. It should be led by increased efficiency (as stated) as margins are going to erode. I know that I don’t really pay any more per hour for legal services than I paid 10 years ago!

Robert Rutherford – CEO of QuoStar