Digital transformation in law firms: What you have to know

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The future of law firms is digital. Every industry, and nearly every company, has been affected by digital technology. You have no doubt heard of digital technology and how it is changing the world, but you may not fully grasp what it is and why it is important.

Digital technology compresses large amounts of electronic information into small storage devices. Going digital makes it easier for a firm to preserve data. It also allows employees to receive, transmit, and process data quickly—sometimes in an instant. Digital technology has changed how people communicate, learn, and work.

Digital transformation in law firms has proceeded apace. Most law firms understand the advantages that digital technology can give them in the delivery of legal services. The quality of services can be improved, and it will help everyone in your firm do their jobs in a more efficient and effective manner.

In the end, a law firm is a business. You must put certain business processes in place to build up your brand, recruit new talent, attract and retain clients, and deliver world-class legal services. This will not happen without adjusting to the realities of the 21st century economy

1. Real Problems and Genuine Solutions

Integrating digital technology into your law firm is not all smooth sailing. There may be some in your firm—especially the more experienced and seasoned partners—who may resist the digital makeover of the firm. They are not entirely wrong to worry about the difficulties and problems that come with digitizing a law firm.

The risks of a digital transformation are as significant as the rewards. Confidentiality is one of the central pillars of legal practice. You are legally and ethically obligated to keep and protect the secrets of your client. Doing anything that jeopardizes this can jeopardize not only the viability of your firm, but the ability of the attorneys in it to practice law.

Your firm must balance the ability to make workflows and customer interactions more efficient with security and confidentiality requirements. There is zero tolerance for failure in the latter part of the scale. 

To make your digital implementation work, you must do the following:

-Establish an executive committee that will plan the implementation

-Engage the right IT partners

-Develop the cultural changes necessary to make the digital transformation work

In order to discern the real problems that your firm will face and get to genuine solutions, the decision-makers must understand how the digital transformation process works, what it does and does not do, the range of outcomes that are possible, and the new legal service solutions that will be made available through the new technology.

2. New Possibilities

Digitizing records is one of the most basic tasks in this process. Digital documents will give your firm trackable and accountable file sharing that is even more secure that you have now with paper documents.

Digital technology will also allow your firm do predictive analytics. Legal analytics help lawyers make decisions based on data—both from the past and the present. Digital will give you tools that will calculate the probability of a specific motion outcome and how various seemingly unrelated cases are linked. Such tools will also enable you to predict settlement awards.

Cybersecurity is another area in which digital technology can help. This goes beyond the protection of digitized records. Email correspondence, virtual meetings, the sending and sharing of electronic files—these are all basic operations that take place in your law firm every day. You cannot do without them, and having the right digital technology installed will help you protect communications with your clients and within your firm.

Your lawyers and staff will also benefit from online courses in a variety of subjects. They can learn more about what the law has to say about the use of digital technology in law firms. Courses such as Ethics and Law in Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and the Law, and Cybersecurity Law and Policy will help your people stay fresh and in compliance.

3. Getting the Most from a Digital Law Firm

It is unwise to invest in digital technology just to follow a trend. You should know how the new technology will be used. The important thing to bear in mind is that technology is only a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. In short, your people should eventually be comfortable with the new technology and should be competent to use it to make the firm more productive.

To this end, you will need to invest in training. But before you do so, you must carry out an honest and detailed assessment of the skill base of the lawyers and staff in your firm. 

While you can outsource many of the technical aspects of maintaining your digital system, you must train the lawyers how to actually use the tools provided by it. Most important, you must get buy-in from them. That is, they must want to use these tools, and they must learn to integrate their day-to-day practice of law.

You must also give due attention to the purely business end of the firm. Here, you may be able to make more significant changes. You can train present staff, but you may need to hire additional people who are digital savvy. You may also need to restructure the department to transform your operations into a fully integrated digital business. 

4. Building a Digital Law Company

You should begin the transformation of your law firm by thinking big. The ultimate aim of implementing digital technology should be the creation of a new type of law firm. Your larger and longer-range plan should be about changing work practices and processes to leverage the benefits and advantages offered by the new technology. This means creating a workforce that can utilize new legal technology.

Digital technology is not only about storing, protecting, receiving, and transmitting data at a faster pace. It is also about changing where and how people work. 

The demand for more flexible working conditions has gained momentum that is unlikely to abate. It is increasingly the case that the most talented people are unwilling to throw over family commitments for the sake of showing up at the office every day. Digital technology gives them the means of doing their jobs from spaces outside of the law firm, and it should be leveraged to do so. 

If you are to attract and retain the best legal and administrative talent on the market, you will need to start making employment decisions based on candidate ability to use cloud applications and other advanced legal technology.

Digital technology has also affected the organization and composition of teams. It allows smaller teams to deliver solid services with less individual expertise. Tasks that in the past would have taken highly skilled lawyers weeks to complete can now be done in a matter of minutes. Even the more mundane tasks such as an initial case review can now be completed with an app, and case assignments can be made after a metrics-based review.

Summary

The legal profession is going through a great digital transformation. You should begin to build the digital law firm of the future. It will prepare you to meet the opportunities and challenges of that future.

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