For longer than should have the case, the legal industry managed to keep technological advancement to a minimum. It meant that innovation was slow and big law firms kept power. However, disruptive technologies have now wrestled away innovative control. With the direction of industry no longer solely in the hands of big legal firms, what do future legal firms have in store?
Digital Service Delivery is a Must
Every professional service has found a way to create a digital office or risk obsolescence. Law is no different. Building a virtual firm that operates in line with a physical location will be the standard.
Clients just don’t accept delays and don’t see the need for a commute anymore. They are growing far more comfortable with exchanging information through virtual means. Expect every firm to create a digital service department at the minimum.
Cloud Management Will Become Uniform
Cloud platforms are far superior to the traditional methods of physical paperwork and filing. We just haven’t optimized our use of them yet. The automation, accessibility, and traceability of platforms like Clio, Google Drive, MyCase, and more are making it a no-brainer to switch over.
The most interesting piece about cloud providers is they understand that compatibility with apps helps them take over the market. When the market-leading contract analysis software works in tandem with your document generation platform, fewer tools are needed. The traditional software tools that continue to operate independently will only accelerate the adoption of cloud management.
Physical Locations Will Remain
Physical locations will not be the pinnacle of prestige they once were but they won’t disappear. Overheads, remote work, agility, efficiency, and sustainability have been re-evaluated, and changes are coming. Shared spaces and meeting rooms will become the priority of legal firms when deciding on office space.
Many small firms will go fully digital and rent meeting space accordingly. Bigger firms will slim down their physical spaces opting for eye-catching customer-facing board rooms only.
Technology Will Eliminate Redundancies
The rate of technological infusion in law is challenging to keep up with but it is quietly threatening many jobs. As much as 100,000 jobs will go in the next 20 years according to Deloitte, and we are already seeing the beginning of that.
Chatbots are replacing receptionist and customer service functions, and automated billing is eliminating accountancy steps as just two examples. The automation revolution is truly underway. Even the best AI contract review software is removing hours of work that would have previously been performed by paralegals or junior counsels.
Profitability Will Increase
Law has always been profitable in the US with many firms surpassing the billion-dollar-a-year threshold. If you thought that was about to change thanks to the increased efficiency, you were mistaken.
Reduced overheads, salaries, travel expenses along with improved operational efficiency mean three things. The cost of doing business is decreasing and there will be more time available for billable hours. It also means that lawyers can afford to lower their rates without losing out on profits.
Skillset Demands Will Change
The roles in law firms will change significantly. Firms will be reassessing the support needed based on the tasks that are covered by technology. In response, this means law schools will need to prioritize different skills. Further emphasis will undoubtedly be placed on technology fluency.
As new graduates come to the market, they will steer firms in roles such as the CIO, CTO, or IT. High proficiency in tech will be a priority skill. This is clearly displayed by North Carolina and Florida, who both have technology mandates for current attorneys.
Legal firms are changing daily and firms unwilling to move with the times will get swallowed up. To remain competitive, law practices will have to adopt technology forward policies that reduce the friction between clients and their services. The industry will continue to find efficiency advantages so it will be the firms that leverage innovations quickly that will dominate going forward.
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