It’s little surprise the UK’s legal sector hasn’t rushed into meeting the latest technology drive. Much like the deregulation of the financial services known as the Big Bang in the 1980’s, the rules around the ownership and running of law firms was relaxed in 2011. While the UK’s financial services responded quickly to become the world’s dominant financial centre, the UK’s legal sector has instead reacted to these reforms with a firm yet mild disinterest.
The first belated reaction came in 2015, when Gateley became the first UK law firm to go public originally raising £30 million. Even by the sloth-like standards of the law, this was slow… but not unsuccessful. In the two years since that offering, Gateley’s share price has doubled. This may have been what inspired Gordon Dadd and Keystone Law, who both floated on the markets late in 2017.
Despite now being one of the most liberalised and profitable industries in the country (generating around £30billion a year). The sector has a natural resistance to change. Partner models promote short-termism, litigation wreaks havoc on client’s budgets and the billable hour persists as an awkward deterrent to efficiency.
Yet a combination of austerity, diminishing budgets, increased competitiveness and growing caseloads has shifted the battleground. Stimulated by a £1.2bn government programme aimed at industry-wide modernisation but that in practice is designed to save costs, law firms are searching more and more for technology partners to improve practice. Not least in the running of the courts, where the UK’s are understood to produce a tower of paper the size of The Shard every 4 days. Modernisation is badly needed.
Yet as the power of the lawyer lies in the uncertainty of the law, the type of modernisation law firms are seeking is a specific kind. It’s technology that strengthens the lawyer’s hand by taking care of mundane tasks. It needs to remove mistakes but not the terrified associates who make them.
In other words, the more boring side of the technology revolution. There will be no Netflix saga on the artificial intelligence upgrades that happen inside law firms. But maybe… just maybe, there might be a few more lawyers finishing work before midnight. And deep down isn’t that something we all want?
So, we’re after evolution, not revolution in this gig. We’re after five steps firms can take to improve their legal tech balance.
I couldn’t work out what I liked more. This gentlemen’s name or his job title. But Mart van de Kerkhof, Head of ‘Know-how’ at Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy says Clocktimizer is definitely worth exploring for any law firm that really wants to understand what’s going on in its business. Which I estimate is just about everyone who works in a law firm except HR.
Clocktimizer says its algorithms study time card narratives to then provide actionable data on budgeting, pricing, management and firm-wide profitability. It’s taken a task that normally takes around six months and has finished it in seconds. I don’t ‘know-how’ they do it.
Imagine if you could assess this article without reading it. Wouldn’t that be great? Well, ThoughtRiver have applied that blue sky thinking to contracts. Their contract intelligence software uses machine learning to scan contracts and other legal documents and presents the information in an online dashboard, allowing users to visualise risk.
And while I for one welcome our new overlord GDPR, I don’t have to read contracts for a living. Using AI technology to assess contracts for issues and provide actionable insight may become a nothing less than a necessity going forward.
One day the robots will replace us. Or to be more specific, find the people who will replace us. Legal Monitor combines search and analytic technologies with a huge database of legal expertise. It contains 190,000+ lawyers across the world’s largest 400+ law firms. Meaning it’s the perfect solution for sourcing the best legal candidates, following the industry’s hiring trends and conducting your own legal market research.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This Norwegian start-up was founded by a business lawyer who felt the law was too inaccessible and found the sharing of legal knowledge to be inadequate. Good intention.
But they have built a tool named Lexolve that allows colleagues to share knowledge and details of legal documents, streamlining the process of drawing up legal contracts and other documents. Potentially saving a significant amount of time and resources while protecting client budgets!
When dealing with a lawyer time is always money. So, while these previous additions have been focused on increasing efficiency, so also is this one! This app is created by lawyers, for lawyers. It works like a portal, keeping clients ‘in the loop’ on the app without the need for back and forth communication or long phone calls, allowing solicitors to increase their productivity across the working day. Simply log into the app on your phone, you spend all day on anyway, and check if everything is in place. Putting clients first like this will only be good news for law firms.
These ideas focus on law as a service industry and set out to improve efficiency and protect client budgets. That’s why they will likely be successful in restoring the legal tech balance in a law firm.
This article was originally published on 5 September 2018 as a blog post on the website of The PHA Group.
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