Many firms have struggled with technology adoption over the last decade and up until now, for the most part, they have been able to hide that from their clients.
This has been because technology had been used by many firms to play a more ‘back of house’ role, focusing on internal operations rather than client-facing initiatives.
Technology is now underpinning client-facing capabilities, supporting new forms of legal services, generating new approaches to old legal problems and allowing new ways of attracting and adding value to clients.
Technology-driven legal services
There are many examples of technology-driven legal services today such as ComplianceHR – Independent Contractor App, Corrs – Crisis Covered and the Hall & Wilcox – Insurance App. There are also dedicated ‘hackathons’ such as the QUT Starters – Disrupting Law event with law firms, students from IT, Law and Design all collaborating over 54 hours to rethink legal services and disrupt the traditional approach to legal service delivery.
Technology has not lived up to the hype of disruption it has promised in the past, so why would it?
Consider conveyancing, debt recovery, personal injury and estate planning as examples, these services can no longer mask a lack of supporting technology and systems. Without having the systems in place today, a firm can either accept a reduction in profit, outsource the work (to a provider that has established the efficiencies) or continue to try and charge above the market rate while they can.
A similar thing will start to happen when technology is embedded into a broader range of legal services via smart contracts using blockchain and when legal advice or contract review is supported by various forms of Artificial Intelligence. At this point there will be no way to hide a lack of technology capability, forcing a firm to reduce profits, outsource further or hope to be able to go unnoticed in charging for inefficiencies. The option to try and mask the lack of technology adoption will become more difficult at this point, because this lack of capability will be more client-facing and more apparent.
What can be done today to compete tomorrow?
In order for firms to position themselves in a way that allows technology to present opportunities rather than challenges, firms need to consider how technology can be aligned in supporting areas such as pricing, business development, culture and client service. Without this strategic alignment, technology is likely to be at odds with other drivers and pressures within the firm, generating very little likelihood of success.
Those firms and lawyers who continue to treat technology with what Richard Susskind refers to as ‘irrational rejection’, the rejection of something based on little or no understanding, will continue to find fewer ways of disguising a lack of technology capability from their clients.
For firms interested in being involved in the QUT Starters ‘Disrupting Law’ event in August 2016, you can find more information or register here. For product-independent legal technology advice, please contact NextLegal to learn how we can assist you.