Like all things, the legal profession is constantly changing. Learning to identify a shift in the industry will help you grasp what trend will emerge and how you can change with it. Adapting to new developments in the industry will enable your business to grow with the changing market.
Here are some developments that are transforming the legal profession.
Technological advancements are paving the way for entire industries. Understanding the importance of emerging technologies is vital in keeping your practice ahead of the competition and in line with the market.
One of the biggest changes to the legal profession in the last 45 years is the introduction of the ‘cloud’. Gone are the days where whole rooms are dedicated to storing physical files and folders. All files and documents are now stored electronically, making them easier to find and in most cases, more secure than their paper counterparts. In a law firm, the cloud is best recognised in the Practice Management Systems used, such as LEAP or Smokeball.
Artificial intelligence is another technological advancements that will undoubtedly empower the legal industry. There is a breadth of uses for AI in the legal industry such as Due diligence, Prediction Technology and electronic billing. As most lawyers know, due diligence can be a tedious process. With the help of AI systems, Lawyers will be able to access multiple databases with contracts, precedents and other relevant documents made available at the touch of a button. Prediction technology can be used to forecast Court decisions with algorithms generating likely outcomes based on the evidence you plug in. Electronic Billing is a feature that’s almost here with many software providers automatically assigning hours as you complete tasks in the system.
One development in the legal industry that often isn’t considered is the population changes and how they affect the industry. This is the first time the industry is seeing all generations collaborating. Many people think this will complicate the workplace however it allows for the sharing of generational strengths.
Many legal businesses are assuring to allow for a 50 year gap between the youngest and oldest. This challenges the traditional ways of operating within the legal profession, however whilst it is good for experience and knowledge to be backbone of the business, millennials are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of key business tools than older workers.
Historically, the legal profession has been slow to introduce social media into the core needs of running a business, due to the complexities of their work. However, in this era, social media is shaping the way legal professionals interact with clients, find potential clients and promote their services. Some may suggest that having a social presence is critical to a business’s success.
Before the internet, television, newspapers and the radio were how a business communicated to a large audience. But now with social platforms, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can reach nationally within minutes. LinkedIn has become the more favoured platform by legal professionals, as the professional space allows you to showcase your services and get insights into industry updates.
The use of outsourcing in the legal industry has allowed businesses to focus more on their core competencies, with third parties completing secondary job functions. You can see this showcased through the introduction of electronic lodgement network operators (ELNO). ELNO’s, PEXA and Sympli, have enabled settlements to be conducted online through a virtual workspace in the comfort of your own office. Additionally, if you are unable to attend a settlement, you can organise a legal agent to go in your place, arranged through search provider, like triSearch.
Outsourcing is used to take the workload off lawyers, allowing them to focus on what they’re good at.
With the entrance of millennials into the industry, employers are constantly finding new ways to appeal to them. This is because they are looking for more then just money. The approach to work-life balance has been constantly evolving, from baby boomers, just craving stability within a job, and the chance for employment, to Millennials focused on the benefits offered within a role.
In this era, Human Resource teams are constantly thinking of new ways to introduce perks into their organisation, whether it be breakfast provided to staff or internal massages. Workplaces are actively trying to change the terminology of ‘Job’ to be associated with ‘Lifestyle’, in the hope that staff look forward to coming into work. With the introduction of flexible working conditions, like accommodating hours and working from home, the legal profession his evolving from 9 to 5, to full flexibility, with the only rule being you get your work done.
The ever-growing competition in the legal industry has pressured firms to adopt alternative billing models to attract and retain their clients. The traditional model of billable-hours per matter, which has served the industry well for over a century, has begun to see some criticism as it promotes inefficiencies from lawyers. Instead, many firms are leaning towards fixed fees or outcome-oriented pricing models to meet the needs of the price-sensitive customer.
“Going green” is more than just a trend of business’s who invest in resources that are deemed to be environmentally friendly. The introduction of technological advancements has enabled legal professionals to take up practices of being more environmentally conscious. Electronic signing has removed the step of printing all together, enabling both parties to sign on an electronic device. Subsequently, the move to paperless conveyancing with over 42% of legal professionals in NSW transacting electronically, has further reduced carbon footprint and company expenses.
The legal industry is no exception to the common saying ‘the only constant is change’. The huge injection of innovation in recent years has been a good preview for the industry, highlighting that more change is undoubtedly on the way. By keeping an open mind, staying agile and embracing change, you can ensure your business stays competitive and healthy.