Top 5 Technology Trends Shaping the Legal Profession in 2021
Updated: Feb 23
COVID-19 has disrupted the global workforce — lawyers included. Many law firms have switched to remote work to adapt to these unprecedented times. This poses significant challenges to practise law and communicate effectively with clients. One of the most effective ways to manage the difficulties brought about by COVID-19 is through the adoption of technology that can help your firm or organisation operate more efficiently. To secure the future success of your firm, it's important to take note of the latest tech trends advancing the legal industry.
According to the Reuters Tech and Law 2020 Report, 48% of legal professionals would be prepared to move to a new law firm or organisation if their employer lacked legal innovation. The current pandemic has demonstrated innovation and digital transformation are key to adapting to the many changes in society. Therefore, staying up-to-date with the latest legal and business technologies is no longer optional. We have created a list to help make it easier for you to understand the latest tech influencing your industry, and why you should consider certain tech for your firm or organisation. Listed below are the top 5 technology trends shaping the legal profession in 2021.
Virtual Legal Assistants
Virtual Legal Assistants (VLAs), or AI-powered chatbots, are a fast-growing trend, especially for larger firms and organisations. According to Gartner predictions, VLAs may represent almost one quarter of all internal requests to the legal departments of big companies by 2023. These technologies have the potential to increase operational capacity for in-house corporate teams. However, their effectiveness depends on legal and compliance leaders playing an active role in the configuration of the VLA to meet their organisation’s specific needs.
VLAs can help your firm deal with the ever-increasing number of internal questions legal departments face. A VLA may improve response time and efficiency, removing the need for a human reply. When these virtual assistants are unable to provide a response, they can also direct questions to a suitable resource. This can provide lawyers with initial research and information that can help answer their question appropriately and quickly. VLAs won’t replace human assistants, however they will help them by working on the time-consuming task of answering frequently asked questions, allowing real assistants to put more time into tasks that require human input.
Before implementing VLAs, law firms should first think about how automation can be used to reduce time-consuming and administrative tasks. Document automation has become common practice across all areas of law and is almost the standard offering for most legal technology solutions. However, there is much more than documents that can be automated within the legal profession. McKinsey and PWS studies have found that it's possible to automate about 25% of lawyers’ time. Workplace automation for instance, can provide firms with tools to better organise and track their progress. Email templating is another option that can help save time and standardise communication for all staff. Other areas which can be made more efficient with automation include data collection, reporting, daily tasks and the billing process.
Automation technology is also updated, analysed and customised to suit your firm and helps you keep up with the ever-changing market. Every member of your team should be able to identify and report which tasks can be automated and feel confident in suggesting improvements to workflow steps. Improvements to efficiency will only be seen if steps are taken to refine the automation process and if all staff have bought into the firm or organisation’s vision and its choice of technology. If implemented correctly, automation is considered one of the most effective ways to improve profitability and efficiency.
Voice technology is another way you can save time on various tasks associated with operating a legal firm. Google Voice, Siri, or a voicemail assistant like Vxt, can help you complete small tasks quickly. With Vxt Notes for instance, you can use voice dictation to record short spoken notes. These are immediately transcribed to text and easily shareable. Most people speak faster than they can write, which can save you time in the long run. You can also use Vxt voicemail to stay on top of your voicemail and the many time-consuming tasks associated with running your business.
The value of effective and personalised communication when it comes to missed calls is often overlooked. A productivity tool like Vxt can also improve relationships with your clients by helping you manage missed calls, converting voicemail to text and forwarding voicemail to email. This allows you to detect urgent messages from potential clients and reply to them before they choose to go elsewhere. You can also personalise your greetings using Vxt’s smart greetings tools. If your firm sends and receives a high volume of calls, a VoIP service (short for Voice over Internet Protocol) like Vxt Call is also a great alternative to traditional phone services. Vxt Call offers lower costs than traditional phone carriers with increased functionality. Through software integrations with practice management solutions, VoIP products are able to dramatically cut down on manual documentation associated with phone calls and voicemail. Using a voicemail assistant and VoIP service like Vxt means you can better manage your missed calls, increase your responsiveness, and save loads of time.
Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in its relative infancy, its expected to have a transformative effect on the legal industry. There is still a lack of understanding surrounding how AI works and how it can be applied to the legal sector. Nevertheless, many of the top legal firms have started to employ AI in their day-to-day operations to help streamline administrative tasks and repetitive processes. One such example is a case in the UK where AI is being used to enable Road Traffic Accident personal injury cases to be litigated electronically or identified as needing a barrister without the need for human intervention. This reduces costs and speeds up client service.
AI can also be used to carry out the laborious task of checking contracts for missing terms or clauses. The need to create and review contracts are an important part of the legal process but also take up a considerable amount of time and effort. AI can support this work. AI software can also be used for machine learning algorithms to quickly and accurately review and analyse documents relevant to specific cases. This software can detect trends and apply its own machine learning to identify other documents that have similar attributes. This leaves lawyers and barristers with more time for activities that require greater analysis, expertise and experience. AI offers legal teams the opportunity to reduce overheads while increasing efficiency and the time lawyers are available to work directly with clients.
Virtual Law Practice
With some parts of the world on full lockdown, and workplaces encouraging people to work from home, it’s likely some legal professionals will find themselves working remotely. Heading in to 2021, you need to make sure your team stays motivated and that you have the right tools for working remotely. A virtual work environment is conducive to business continuity and managing emergency activities. There is also an ever-increasing flexibility of working from home, however this brings along its own set of challenges. Technology must therefore be used to facilitate business activity in the right way.
Obviously the use of devices other than the office computer means law firms need to continue to create and update acceptable use and responsibility policies. This should also include rules around document sharing, while also discouraging local storage and promoting central document management via a cloud service. With increases in breaches and privacy legislation, there is also a greater emphasis placed on privacy and security. Firms are concerned about the security of themselves and their customers. Increasing privacy regulations means law firms need to continually stay up to date with the latest guidelines and laws. This includes finding ways of making sure remote work and communication is as secure as possible.
The legal profession is full of innovations to watch and implement in 2021, with the sector quickly moving toward digital transformation to drive productivity. Legal tech will result in time and cost savings. However, implementation of various technologies must be thought-out to ensure they genuinely improve client service and efficiency. Technology should create solutions for law firms and their staff, as well as provide a better quality product and service for their clients. This improved efficiency and better processes should result in lower costs and an overall positive client experience. By leaving arduous and time-consuming tasks to technology, legal professionals can spend more time concentrating on higher value, client facing tasks.