Technology is changing the legal profession

Prior to the pandemic, the legal sector was able to avoid major change when it came to technology. However, today there are new pressures placed on the industry in this new digital world. Customer expectations have changed. To remain competitive in the market, lawyers have needed to adapt. In order to communicate effectively with clients and to carry on business, technology has become a necessity.

Why embrace technology?

There are new technology tools that have driven change in the industry in customer-facing processes like contract management, legal research, discovery, as well as back-end processes like practice management and billing. There is no denying that technology has the ability to reshape the industry for the better.

Technology can improve productivity, service delivery and reduce overheads, for example, cloud-based technologies like software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service. While there has been some hesitancy to embrace this technology in the industry due to cyber-security concerns, technology is catching up in this space and warrants exploration.

What would have otherwise been a face-to-face meeting can now be conducted over mobile devices on video chat. While being mindful of ethical obligations, social media has provided lawyers with the opportunities to share opinions, network, publish content and market their services.

Technology trends in the legal industry

There are various technology trends that predominately larger firms in the legal industry are leveraging. These include:

  • Automation: Experts say 23% of a lawyer’s work can be automated. Automation can be used to reduce time-consuming and administrative tasks, by using email templating for example. Document automation is common in the industry, and there are tools in workplace automation to organise and track progress. Other areas which can be automated include data collection, reporting, daily tasks and billing.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): While still relatively unexplored in the industry, there are some firms taking advantage of this technology that mimics human behaviour. It can be used to carry out repetitive tasks like checking contracts for missing clauses which is often very time-consuming.
  • Internet of things (IoT): this emerging technology allows objects used in our daily lives to be plugged into the internet to provide real-time data which can be used as evidence in legal cases.
  • Virtual Legal Assistants (VLAs): these are AI-based chatbots and remove the need for a human reply. While they don’t replace humans, they can cut the need for a human response and increase operational capacity.
  • Voice technology: Because people can speak faster than they can type, voice dictation and other voice assistants increase productivity. Technology can also be used to automatically transcribe voicemail messages which can then be sent to email to allow for a prompt response for urgent clients.

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Interesting legal tools being developed in Australia

There are over one thousand legal software programs out there to help lawyers get their work done. But lawyers should do their homework first and shouldn’t just trust that programs will do what they say they do.

There are some interesting tech savvy tools being introduced to the industry in Australia. SettlePro, a firm that helps plaintiffs reach fair financial settlements in legal disputes, has created an online calculator to be used to assist family lawyers fast-track property settlements for clients. It calculates the percentage and amount of the asset pool a client is likely to receive based on similar cases.

The legal tech company Smarter Drafter has developed technology that automates the drafting of legal documents. It currently offers 96 different types of automated legal documents across estate planning, intellectual property, commercial, property, employment, and family law.

Another company, Smokeball, has developed “autotime” using cloud-based technology to track the hours worked by lawyers whether they are at home or in the office. It’s a way for legal organisations to accurately bill for their services.

Looking to the future

With the need for legal professionals to work from home during lockdowns and beyond this into the future, a virtual law practice is an idea that the industry must strive towards. In this new world, all that will be needed is an internet connection. Continuity is essential and as such, flexibility is required to provide an uninterrupted legal service to clients that is secure, fast, and reliable.

Technology advances and emerging technologies have created new opportunities for the legal profession. Talk to the technology experts at Essential Tech to find out how your law firm can take advantage of technology to help your legal practice thrive.

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