When we think about sectors undergoing disruptive growth and transformation, some come to mind more readily than others.
IT, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing – to name a few – regularly feature in news reports. All detailing how they are morphing in ways congruent with the digital age. Less likely to make synapses glow, is the legal sector. Intentionally cautious and institutionally resistant to any change. Lawyers have watched the world evolve around them whilst refusing to accept that bundles of paper and a secretary at your side ready to touch type your every thought may one day (soon) be a thing of the past.
Times though, are changing. In this piece, we look at some of the disruptive influences on one of the UK’s most historic and complex sectors.
Not all disruption to the legal sector is coming from external forces. Firms that are embracing technological development and innovating through it are starting to expose their more conventional peers. Take, for example, research and fact-checking. The two processes are infamously time-consuming, requiring ploughing through stacks of testimonies, data, briefings and reports.
Today, machine learning software which utilises sophisticated algorithms, forward thinking firms are leveraging ahead. The software reads and analyses high-volume, complex data sets and retrieve the most pertinent information to cases. The result is a faster and more accurate process that reduces costs. More importantly it finds key data points and trends that human lawyers and paralegals might miss.
With time, costs and human error diminished, companies using this software are able to provide a better quality, cost effective service to their clients. With uptake on such software continuously increasing, firms preferring the traditional methods may start to find themselves imperilled.
“What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought apart from property?” The reason property is excluded from that often-asked question, is that it’s a given that property is a pricy commodity. For that reason alone, law firms are handing back the office keys and migrating their service to the cloud. This enables lawyers to practice with a new-found mobility, independence and control over their work/life balance.
These advancements are proving immensely popular with lawyers and clients alike and are further endangering traditional models of practising law.
Whereas many disruptive encroachments into the law are willingly propagated by firms, some leave them no choice but to react. As we become more reliant on the internet, the threat to data and systems increases. With law firms holding data that is particularly sensitive, they have become a primary target for malicious attacks such as ransomware.
Quite simply, significant data breaches and leaks can destroy a company. Law firms are having to adapt and upgrade their security protocols as a matter of necessity rather than choice. While they’re at it, many are reviewing their whole ICT strategies and investing in software fit for the digital age.
The way companies, whatever sector they’re in, market their services is changing at a frightening pace. The public no longer refer to phone books, and advertising through radio and TV comes at a high price. As of May 2018, when the EU-wide GDPR comes into effect, companies won’t even be able to rely on email marketing.
Like companies within all sectors, law firms that are looking for greater exposure, are investing in digital content marketing strategies. Rather than law firm websites simply listing services, they must be regularly updated with fresh and compelling content keeping them at the summit of search engine results forms. Indeed, research and marketing specialists Econsultancy, found that content marketing is viewed as the most effective digital marketing discipline for law firms. Firm’s messages also need to fill the social media highways with strategies and tactics in place that encourage users to interact with and share their content.
The much vaunted ‘gig economy’ is proving another disruptive influence on the legal profession. The notion of entering an office front door at 8 am and not leaving till 6 pm fits poorly with the expectations of the modern work-life balance.
In record numbers, lawyers are increasingly opting for a working life led by flexibility and freedom, and many law firms are having to adapt to these demands. Implemented properly, firms using lawyers essentially as independent, self-employed consultants, allows them to use resources more effectively, leading to cost savings for both clients and law firms alike.