The State of Legal Technology: Q&A with Aderant President Deane Price

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The State of Legal Technology: Q&A with Aderant President Deane Price

by Craig Dekshenieks, Director, Content & Marketing Operations, Aderant

The legal community increasingly uses words like predictability, transparency, and efficiency in the many market conversations around the evolution in the business of law. As a leading legal technology provider, we believe those words are also inherently linked to innovation.

Consider the following:

  • Predictability stems from analytics to inform pricing and grow client relationships;
  • Transparency is derived from collaboration to develop creative legal solutions; and
  • Efficiency is gleaned from automation to eliminate redundant tasks and reduce extra steps from legal processes and mobility to provide access to real-time data, like WIP, from anywhere.

These are more than words, these are the foundations of the legal technology, tools that provide law firms with the capacity for predictability, transparency and efficiency.

To examine the subject from a leadership perspective we sat down with Aderant President Deane Price. As our top executive, she offers a macro perspective that is worth sharing with the larger legal community.

Here are the five questions we asked Deane and her candid answers.

1) How would you characterize the state of legal technology in 2018?

DP: “I would say the state of legal technology is the most exciting it has been since I joined Aderant in 2011. Law firms are moving faster and making, what in my opinion, are better business decisions. One of the biggest hurdles in the legal vertical for technology is lack of desire to change. A number of factors are breaking down the status quo and now law firm executive leadership sees technology as an enabler.”

2) In the 2017 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey, respondents identified legal pricing as the top challenge for law firms. In the US, there’s a recurring cycle of law firms raising rates annually and yet still seeing realizations drop. What do law firms have to do to break the cycle?

DP: “Overall legal market demand is relatively flat, productivity is down and rates are up. This theme has been relatively consistent since the end of the Great Recession. But different market segments are performing better than others. I think an individual firm can use technology to help them go after the better-performing markets and by understanding their firm’s expertise and historical matter performance can create pricing alternatives that drive firm profitability.”

3) Operational efficiency is a top challenge facing law firms – second only to legal pricing in the aforementioned survey. As the top executive for a leading legal technology solution provider, where do you see the biggest opportunities for law firms to leverage technology for gains in efficiency?

DP: “In my opinion, the use of technology to get rid of paper is a huge opportunity. Using workflows and redlining techniques to convert paper-based processes into electronic processes will transform firms. Take the billing process, for example, imagine if you cut time, multiple manual touches, and paper bills out of the process, how much you can speed the collections process of the firm and gain productivity. This is a reality; we’ve worked with law firms that have reduced the time it takes to invoice clients from three weeks to three days.”

4) There’s a unique dynamic in the legal tech market because a significant number of large law firms have learned their financial system of record is facing sunset. For many firms, this presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to upgrade a technology system that supports the core business process inside a law firm. What should firms be thinking about to get this important decision right?

DP: “Firms should not be thinking of this as just a financial system replacement, they should think about how the fee earners of a firm should be interacting with the critical data held in the financial system. Law firms should consider how they can get the most critical data to a fee earner when they need it, where they need it, and in a way they can consume it. Like a software company, the most critical asset for a law firm is their people and how they spend their time. I find it difficult to understand how a law firm can operate as efficiently as possible if they don’t have access to real-time entries.”

5) Aderant serves law firms all over the world and the key law business issues tend to vary from market to market. What are some differences you see between the US and UK or Europe? Are these similar to the concerns you see in Australia or the Asia Pacific legal market?

DP: “While each market has its nuances, there is definitely a trend of globalization across firms in all regions. So even if a firm is not a global firm, they may be supporting their clients who are global. Security and data privacy is a concern globally, but not the exact same requirements. There have been multiple regulation changes throughout Europe, for example, and we’ve been hearing from our clients that the upsurge in security audits are really taxing IT departments. We have to remain current on these types of issues in order to continue to service our clients in the way they have become accustomed.”

As Deane Price noted in this interview last year, Aderant has pledged to customers to provide mobility, automation, collaboration and analytics in everything we do. While those foundations remain the same, it’s equally important to think about how those should evolve even as law firms needs evolve. That’s a central theme in innovation and arguably, the essence of the state of legal technology.

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