The technology impacts on the legal industry have been an evolving topic of discussions for years. Recently, those impacts have become significant and now most law firms are forced to deal with the issue. However, with the pains that come along with technological advances, there are some significant advantages as well. First, technology is not going to replace lawyers in the foreseeable future, so let’s squash that myth immediately. Technology has however, changed client expectations and how law firms do their work. Let’s evaluate a few of the most prevalent trends.
With improved cloud technology, data sharing, and collaboration tools, attorneys are more easily able to communicate with their peers, support staff, and clients. The trick is understanding how to use the technology. More communication is not always a good thing. More effective communication and easier sharing of ideas is a good thing. When used appropriately, collaboration tools can save lots of time previously spent trying to get input, sharing updates, and ensuring everyone has all of the necessary information to process their cases.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have been rolling out for years. Over the past few years, significant advancements have been released that allow for improved documentation, research, e-discovery, data aggregation, data analytics, and reporting. AI has been able to automate processes that previously took hours or days. If you bill the by the hour, this might not initially sound great. Many attorneys are changing their billing model due to the improved efficiency of effectively using AI tools. Don’t panic! AI still can’t solve complex legal problems, appear in court, or build relationships with clients. AI can better classify data, interpret incredibly large data sets, perform predictive modeling, and improve the overall decision-making process.
New Client & Employer Risks
With modern technology, comes new risks. Employers now have a completely new set of risk issues for which to be concerned. Are employees bashing your firm on social media? Is anyone discretely taking pictures of trade secrets on their personal cell phone completely undetected by your IT team? Worse even, are private conversations being recorded without your or your clients’ knowledge? Or perhaps your clients are recording conversations. Let’s not forget one of the biggest risks of all, the dreaded data security breach or hack! The list of risks related to technology is endless. Attorneys and employers have to be more aware of technology than ever before. This requires significant training and analysis.
According to a recent journal from the ABA, attorneys spend 20% of their time on legal issues and the rest of their time on administrative duties and client retention and acquisition activities. Improvements in technology can help law firms run more efficiently, make better decisions, and reduce the time spent on administrative tasks. With adequate training, embracing technological advances can help law firms increase profits and enable lawyers to spend more time practicing law and less time documenting, communicating, and researching.
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