Are Legacy Applications Slowing Your Firm Down?
In analysis / By Lydia Cooper / 04 June 2019
According to a recent study from The Law Society on the adoption of “lawtech” in the legal sector, the pace of technological innovation in the sector has been slower when compared to other professional services. Whilst this isn’t news to most, the report also identifies that current market forces are starting to drive a much greater level of innovation in legal; therefore, could things be about to change?
Pressure around efficiencies is identified as a key driver for change in The Law Society’s report. The majority of large law firms are under incredible pressure to improve profit margins as the volume of activity increases, therefore the need to have mobile access to data and information is also starting to have an impact on the landscape of the industry.
However, in opposition to this need, many law firms still rely on a network of legacy systems such as historical practice or case management systems, document retention and preparation systems; as well as a range of finance-related systems to record time and billing, few of which currently ‘talk’ to each other.
What are the barriers and drivers of lawtech adoption?
Users of legacy systems often report poor usability and outdated functionality, as a result most products fail to reach their full potential within a firm due to the time and effort needed to fully integrate a system into a network of others.
However, the use of legacy systems is viewed as both a barrier and a driver of lawtech adoption according to the research. Whilst the need to replace old legacy systems can be a driver for change, many legal professionals will have unfortunately had experience of underwhelming technologies, leaving many sceptical of the potential value a new system might deliver. A quote from one lawtech start-up, taken from The Law Society’s report comments: “There is a cynicism among some law firms as to what lawtech can do, having been let down by underwhelming legal tech in the past.”
Another barrier to change is cost. As mentioned earlier, the pressure to drive efficiencies whilst meeting the changing needs of customers is one most firms can relate to. The report identifies that the perception amongst respondents is that law firms have historically dedicated a lower percentage of their overall budgets to IT spend. Both the in-house legal department and IT are often viewed as cost centres, losing out to ‘core operations’ when it comes to investment. Partnership structures and the ‘billable hour’ model means that many firms don’t perceive themselves as a business and can therefore struggle to free up the capital needed to invest in IT.
This isn’t the case for all firms, however. The report highlighted that larger firms and those with a focus on innovation and growth often look for ways to integrate legacy systems into other disparate systems for efficiency gains. Others see opportunity for new, more advanced systems as legacy systems inevitably come to the end of their life.
Whatever your point of view, it’s clear that lawtech is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Firms that want to remain competitive and meet the needs of their ever-demanding clients need to have a technology strategy on their agenda, particularly as the legal workforce becomes more mobile, younger and more tech-savvy.
Are law firms already embracing technology?
Savvy firms such as Keystone Law, have embraced technology thoroughly using it to reduce business overheads and drive efficiencies, enabling over 300 lawyers to work more dynamically and flexibly.
“Lots of traditional law firms are constrained by legacy IT systems which are difficult to change,” says Sarah Needham, Commercial Contracts and IP Lawyer at Keystone Law. “Having access to industry-leading technology that enables us to set up and invoice clients in a matter of minutes lets me focus on my core job and be as productive and efficient as possible for my clients.”
Another Nasstar client, Jackson Lees is leveraging the latest technology in order to meet client demands:
“The ability to engage with clients outside of the 9-5 workday has changed how lawyers operate and improved the service and responsiveness we can offer to clients. It has also meant that the firms that do embrace mobile working are able to attract and retain high-calibre talent, who now expect agility and flexibility when engaging with IT systems and work devices”, says Joanna Kingston-Davies, COO at Jackson Lees.
“The importance of technology in our business can’t be underestimated” comments Kingston-Davies. “If a process can take 5 clicks instead of 10 clicks, it means we can focus more of our time and energy on our clients. There are still a lot of processes in the legal sector that can be automated to make practices leaner and more effective, and AI and robotics technologies are only at the start of what they can do to make the legal sector more efficient.”
Jackson Lees looked at a number of different criteria for selecting a partner for their hosted IT environment, and a key requirement was having access to a local resource which could act as an extension to their IT team.
“For us, the value-add that a technology partner like Nasstar can bring to us is the ability to pass on the knowledge and insights they see happening across the tech industry in order to point us in the right direction of the next big thing ahead. With Nasstar, we feel better equipped to face what’s ahead.”
Joanna will be discussing their journey on the road to outsourcing in more detail at an event on 13th June at The Shard. Click here for more details.