Innovation in the Legal Sector
In insight / By Lydia Cooper / 21 May 2018
A recent report into innovation in the legal sector found that although many firms recognise that technological innovation can help them to differentiate themselves from the competition, many practices are still not taking the required steps to capitalise on the opportunity that innovation offers them. The Law Society found in their 2015 – 2016 survey that one quarter of small firms are still spending 90% of their annual IT budget on maintaining existing IT systems, while 19% were spending their entire IT budget on keeping existing technology running.
Today, many of the top law firms now have job roles dedicated to addressing innovation, so why aren’t we seeing more examples of innovation across the sector?
“There are many technology innovations that firms aren’t able to use because they don’t have the right technology foundations in place today,” says Bill Kirby, Director at legal consultancy specialist, Professional Choice Consultancy. “For example, any of the advanced analytics tools that firms could be using require a good base of data and connected systems, in addition to added security to protect all of this data being collected. There are a lot of ‘defensive’ actions that firms need to take to solve their current business issues and security needs before they can start to capitalise on newer innovations.”
Innovation in client service delivery
But innovation is occurring in many firms, and it is mainly being driven by client demands and increases in expectations of how legal services should be delivered.
“We’re seeing firms making more investments to use technology to deliver innovation across client services,” adds Nigel Redwood, CEO of Nasstar. “Rather than focusing on back-end IT, more investment is now being directed at technology which can accelerate frontline services. This has turned how IT is perceived on its head within law firms, and tech is now seen as an enabler for delivering client innovation.”
Instead of IT being a service only managed by the IT department, client-facing teams and partners are now engaging with new technologies to see how they can drive increased sales activity and improve the client relationship.
“In the future,” says Joanna Kingston-Davies, COO at the Jackson Lees Group, “we see AI playing a key role in our marketing and sales processes by helping direct clients to the information they need on our website, educating customers on our products and increasing conversion rates across our marketing activities.”
Innovation is not only having an impact on client-facing services, but is also being leveraged to improve the efficiency of back-office operations.
“I see Artificial Intelligence, bots and automation as the next big tech trend to really impact on the legal sector,” comments Joanna. “As a business, Jackson Lees is starting to experiment with AI and automation by implementing scanning software to auto-scan and file records coming into our organisation. This means our operations team’s time is freed up to focus on other activities, and the information reaches the lawyer quicker. We already have a number of activities automated through our practice management software that triggers actions and next steps based on inputted data. Interestingly, we’ve not used this increase in automation to decrease headcount; instead, we’ve dedicated more focus and time to client-facing services.”
Rather than using AI and automation technologies to keep business costs to a minimum, innovative firms like Jackson Lees are reinvesting savings into front-line services to improve client satisfaction levels and enable them to do more for customers.
Leveraging today’s technology
However, one of the main messages we’re hearing is that much of the technology that firms need in order to make their service delivery more innovative and efficient already exists within their businesses today – it just isn’t being used effectively.
“There are lots of examples of supposed ‘innovation’ occurring in the legal sector,” says Bill Kirby, “however, there’s an abundance of technology that already exists today and isn’t being effectively leveraged, so the first step is for firms to embrace the technology they already have, and get more out of it. Are you getting the most out of your existing software investments? Are you using your practice management and case management packages to their full extent? Are you even on the latest releases?”
Because many existing and readily available technology solutions aren’t being used to their full potential today, some of the more radical innovations across Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots are unlikely to take the industry by storm overnight, as some industry figures are predicting.
“In terms of artificial intelligence, there is a lot of hype in the industry and we’re yet to see where it can be applied for maximum impact, it’s more likely it will be integrated piecemeal into practice management systems rather than sparking an AI revolution over the next 12 months,” says Nigel Redwood, CEO of Nasstar.
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