Law is integral to the past, present and future of civilized society. But it needs the help of new tech to stay relevant

By Matthew Briggs In About TLS

A recent BBC article looked at the ‘digital makeover’ taking hold amongst some of the world’s most progressive law firms.

From utilising Skype and Facetime for interviews to digitised filing systems and innovative software applications, the BBC piece showed how lawyers are embracing the demands of the 21st Century – and the changing expectations of customers.

But is a ‘makeover’ what the legal profession really needs? This question left us a little torn. 

On the one hand, the answer is ‘yes’. The legal sector has performed well over the last 12 months and, if the primary task for the future of the profession is to mop up the latent market or ‘Access Gap’, as described by the Legal Services Board, then firms should swiftly find themselves in rude health. 

The need for legal expertise is as old as the hills, and even with artificial intelligence on the horizon, it is people whom we ultimately still rely on to look after our best interests in society. In this sense, perhaps a ‘makeover’ is all that is needed to dispel the old fear of legal providers and help build a healthy dialogue with individuals and small businesses. 

At the same time, we wonder if the term ‘makeover’ sells the issues facing the legal profession a little short. Are the challenges really this superficial? Or does the profession need to look more closely at its ethos and approach to 21st-century technologies? Are established law firms currently too risk-averse and would more far-reaching change not help to revitalise a sector that some consider being entrenched in the old ways? 

The man on the street today is a more demanding creature than ever before. Anyone with a smartphone or tablet device has access to an endless supply of information, ‘real-time’ solutions to every problem and ‘instant access’ to products and services. From maps to social media, online banking to fitness trackers, technology has raised all of our expectations. The knock-on effect of which is an extreme lack of patience.

In a world where everyone wants everything done yesterday, it is fair to say that some of the old legal processes can seem slow and archaic to the modern customer.

As the BBC article suggests, the potential for innovation and progression in the legal sector is huge. But to make the very most of the digital tools at their disposal, firms will have to let go of many of the traditional ways of working: 

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) promise to remove much of the grunt work involved in law.”

One of the key frustrations with the profession is unquestionably the time it takes to get the legal cogs turning and process documentation to achieve results. With the world’s information now available at the touch of a button, customers also don’t see the value in paying sizeable fees for admin processes that should take minutes.

This brings into question the pricing structures of services that have historically taken hours or days but may be handled in seconds by computer systems. For some, this concept may seem like progression; to others, the loss of billable hours may seem suicidal.

Like it or loathe it, the fact of the matter is that for every established firm that rejects such technological developments, there will be a new entrant ready to take a chance – such is the nature of digital disruption.

Over the next five years, we expect to see a significant shift amongst legal service providers of all shapes and sizes. Some will look to tighten up their processes and embrace tools that enable them to work more efficiently and cost-effectively; some will take advantage of greater efficiency to make their services more affordable to customers; others still will look to disrupt the traditional legal model altogether. 

While the future isn’t clear to anyone, the team here at The Law Superstore fundamentally believes that our eyes and ears must be open to the opportunities in front of us. We have designed and built a platform that aims to serve both legal service providers and their clients, bringing flexibility, convenience and affordability to the marketplace.

But even whilst working on a platform we consider to be cutting edge, we know that in time it will evolve and change as the industry adapts to wider changes. One thing is clear to us: to survive and grow, an open mind and agility are crucial.

If you would like to find out more about The Law Superstore, you can visit www.thelawsuperstore.co.uk/partners or join us at one of our roadshows around the UK, via Eventbrite.

This article was first posted on LinkedIn

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