Technology is redefining the legal sector, making it easier for legal professionals to carry out their day to day tasks. Online research databases, digital contracts and virtual hearings are transforming a profession that has always been known for its paper trail. But with this growing reliance on technology, comes challenges. Let’s look at some of the ways in which technology is changing the legal sector, how it will benefit legal businesses and the obstacles they may face.
Recent changes in legal technology
Over recent years, technology has enabled the legal sector to streamline, simplify and speed up many processes including:
- Conveyancing – the process of buying and selling a house can now take place mostly or entirely electronically, in many cases speeding up what is still a complicated procedure.
- Time recording and billing – these previously time consuming processes can now be easily and quickly conducted using software. This can also provide more transparency to the client.
- Remote hearings – the courts quickly transitioned to remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic enabling Crown, magistrate, tribunal, family and civil cases to be heard without the need for participants to physically attend court. With cases conducted entirely via video conferencing, courts were soon able to catch up on the backlog of cases, but this hasn’t happened without concerns being raised.
The future of technology in the legal profession
As technology continues to advance, we can expect further changes in the legal profession. These might include:
- Virtual practices – whose operations are fully online and provide their services at a lower price as they don’t need to cover overheads and infrastructure costs.
- Remote working – where practices harness the power of cloud computing to enable legal professionals to work at home, at the office or both.
- Artificial intelligence – where legal professionals use AI to help predict the outcome of cases based on historical data and give them a better understanding of the cases they are working on.
The challenges legal firms face with new technologies
As technology continues to transform the legal sector, it will also present challenges. We have outlined some of the core issues legal firms may face below:
Costs – increased costs at a time of rising energy bills and post-pandemic recovery could be the biggest challenge legal firms currently face. New equipment and software to enable virtual hearings and increased cyber security are amongst the top anticipated costs.
Considerations – during the pandemic remote hearings worked better in less complex cases. Going forwards, they will need to be considered on a case by case basis. Video conferencing may not be suitable when the involved parties are affected by learning difficulties, mental health problems or experience of trauma or for those who speak English as a second language.
Security – legal firms that are operating solely online or who have employees/partners working remotely or on a hybrid basis will need to be mindful of cyber security. This means ensuring firewall protection and multi factor authentication. With more and more legal resources becoming digital, file sharing will be more commonplace. This will lead to a growing need for file encryption, setting user permissions and checking third party access.
Skills – as technology becomes an element of legal services, firms in the legal sector will need personnel who can combine both legal and technical expertise. Roles such as legal data analysts and legal technologists will become increasingly important in the industry. Training will also have to take into account what technological skills the legal professionals of the future will require.
How to incorporate new technology in your law firm
Introducing new technology can be challenging but here are a few tips to help make it as easy as possible:
- Assess what you need – ask yourself what are your biggest challenges right now and determine what is priority.
- Do your research – there will be many solutions out there, from your choice of cloud computing, to file sharing options and industry specific software. Take your time to research the options and ask others in your industry for their opinion.
- Ensure your people are ready to adapt – new technology isn’t always the answer if your people are not ready to accept it and adapt the way they work. Make sure any new technology you introduce will not just add extra duties to people’s workloads without giving them some benefits.
Finally, and probably the most important tip is to consider getting some external help to enable you to implement new technology. IT specialists with expertise of working in the legal sector will be best placed to advise on, procure and implement the solutions you need.
At Matrix IT we have experience of working with a wide range of businesses across the legal sector. We can help your organisation to move to the cloud, implement robust cyber security measures and deploy firewalls and back up processes. To find out more please visit our case studies page for details of the legal projects we have worked on.