Law firms are some of the last workplaces that still rely heavily on keeping documents in paper form and undertaking many tasks manually. However, times are changing, and many law practices are coming around to the idea that there is a place for technology and that such technology can make them more competitive, more cost-effective for clients and more profitable in the long term. Here we look at some of the solutions that have been developed for the legal market.
Why Are Some Firms Embracing Technology and Others Not?
Law firms are inherently risk-averse, and the idea of placing all of a firm’s paperwork on to some sort of database is seen by some firms as too much of a risk. There is the risk of documents ending up in the wrong hands by being stolen or the possibility that misuse of the system could lead to documents being destroyed or lost, even by accident. This is where training staff is vital, but that and the initial outlay for the systems all cost money, so some firms will prefer to stick with the ‘status quo’.
Small to medium-sized firms are the perfect market for new technology, as unlike their larger competitors, they probably do not have the office space to store the amount of paperwork that they are generating. They are also realising that new technology is a great way to free up the time of fee-earners for client work by using systems to take away some of the administrative tasks they may have done previously.
Billing and Time Management Systems
Systems that can accurately record how much time a fee-earner has spent on one case and then provide the client with an accurate bill are invaluable to firms that want to make a profit, so many firms have already bought into the idea of having such systems. Additionally, law firms can use specially designed accountancy packages, although many firms outsource all of their accountancy function.
Case Tools and Systems
As well as systems to record time and deal with billing, Legal Document Management, which provides electronic document storage for the legal market, is also popular. Such storage enables both the firm and clients to access their documents securely and can ensure that the firm’s data is protected in case of an emergency while also being compliant with the Data Protection Act.
The main benefit of new technology for a working lawyer is the rise of ‘work-flow’ tools, which are usually integrated into a case management system. Such a system can help a lawyer through all aspects of a particular type of case, even providing them with the relevant legal precedents, forms and documents that they might need too conduct a case effectively.
Legal Research Online
Online research tools and materials are invaluable to the legal profession, particularly for the most up-to-date case law on a particular issue. Although law libraries still exist and most firms still have one, many also use online tools to conduct research for cases or to find the correct forms and precedents. Fillable forms and precedents are popular and can save legal professionals time, and clients money, by doing some of the administrative work for them.
Although many firms still like the idea of paper, both in their offices and in their libraries, technology is continuing to revolutionise this industry in an effort to bring it fully into the 21st century.