Chris Giglio, Chief Executive Officer, Aderant
By the year 2020 smart machines and legal process outsourcing (LPO) will “radically disrupt” the legal profession.
That was the prediction first put forth by market research firm Gartner, Inc. in a 2014 report called Legal IT Scenario, 2020. The project examined four possible, perhaps even controversial, scenarios affecting the buyers of legal services.
As we look ahead to 2017, we draw ever closer to the once seemingly distant 2020. The question remains –what does disruption mean for large law?
“As we approach the future of law, and the opportunity technology affords, we are proving to the legal community that we are already thinking ahead.”
The answer largely depends on how we define disruption. On one hand, the word has become so common in the legal vernacular it risks devalued meaning. On the other hand, it’s quite clear the industry has, and will continue to experience, meaningful change at the provocation of clients, technology and competitive pressures.
Unquestionably, the word disruption has earned a permanent spot on the legal industry’s glossary. For example, consider the following:
- “The legal profession will be radically different in ten years. Changing client demands, employee expectations, technology and other external factors will alter the nature of the jobs and skills required in the future,” concluded a study by Deloitte dated February 2016.
- “The future law firm will be driven by leaders who understand technology, efficiency and innovation,” according to a piece by Norton Rose Fulbright LLP published in May 2016.
- “Technology has disrupted and transformed virtually every service area, including travel, banking, and stock trading. The legal services industry, by contrast, has not yet fully harnessed the power of technology to improve the delivery of, and access to, legal services,” reads the Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States, by the ABA.
The common denominator in each of these outlooks is technology. While the degree of radicalism remains a topic of healthy debate, Aderant believes technology has never presented a greater opportunity for law firms. As such, we are firmly focused on facilitating those benefits for the large law community.
3 Principles of Tech-Enabled Law Firm in 2020
When we examine the market and consider the impact to law firms, Aderant sees potential in three specific technological principles: mobility, automation and collaboration.
More importantly, in each aspect, we challenge the legal community to think beyond just what is happening in this moment – that is merely trying to just complete legal work faster or cheaper. Instead, we are focused on solving the legal IT problems law firms are likely to face in 2020 – that is executing legal tasks better.
Here’s how we define those principles:
1) Mobility: the antidote to anchored working stations.
Mobility is the minimum barrier to entry in legal IT. Of course, attorneys and staff need access to critical systems and client data outside the office. Yet, this is just the beginning. Mobility also means enabling timekeepers and fee-earners to be more effective in the workplace too.
Whether roaming the office, meeting with clients or at a working-lunch, law firms need to put mobile tools in the hands of a staff that provide the same access, features and benefits they’ve come to expect on a desktop. The notion of mobility in 2020 rests on the idea that law firm staff are not anchored or locked to a specific work station.
2) Automation: augment headcount to drive growth.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions in professional services, including law firms, is that people are the catalyst for driving growth. Many firms are reliant on increasing the number of timekeepers in order to increase revenue. Yet, this model is not sustainable in the long term – it’s simply too expensive and clients are clearly demanding alternatives.
Automation means improving workflow and task flow with technology. This means standardizing manual steps and replacing human intervention with software where applicable. For example, in a law firm, finding ways to initiate a process without someone being physically present.
3) Collaboration: breaking down the barriers to efficiency
Improving collaboration requires both the culture and tools to do it.
Collaboration doesn’t just mean cooperation between an attorney and his or her team. As it is with mobility, that’s just the minimum standard. Collaboration also means breaking down silos of information between practice groups and from lawyer to client and vice versa.
This level of collaboration provides transparency that is a source of motivation for collaboration, and can potentially yield new compensation models. For example, it opens the door to jettison old models of incentives based on utilization alone. The efficiency benefits both the firm and the client.
Better Together, the Future of Law
Over the past few years, Aderant has aggressively developed legal specific solutions in these areas. In this year alone we’ve rolled out a half-dozen mobile applications, built automation tools that non-technical staff can use, and have added unprecedented collaboration capabilities.
This law firm vision for 2020 is not as far away as we as an industry might think. As we approach the future of law, and the opportunity technology affords, we are proving to the legal community that we are already thinking ahead.
Radically disruptive? We’ll leave that question to the analysts, but you can bet we’re focused on helping law firms solve for future scenarios affecting the buyers of legal services. There’s no mistaking, we’ll be better together.
- Big Law Business: ‘Future’ Report from ABA Plays it Too Safe (Perspective)
- Legal Aggregate: The Coming of Age of Legal Technology
- Think Tank: How Will Machine Learning Impact Legal?