While the legal industry is highly traditional, in previous blog posts we have touched on the fact that there is one area that is experiencing bigger, faster changes when it comes to digital transformation in daily work: legal departments within companies.
The driving force behind this is also clear - keeping costs down. But ultimately, that is the result of another main reason behind digitalization of legal work processes - the client. Today, when junior lawyers are making 6-figure salaries, clients are seeing bills add up quickly. To keep lawyers and clients happy, companies are looking to other ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Inevitably, this falls to the internal operations. How can these be made more automated in order to help save time and costs for the client and for the company? Legal departments have been forced to look into time-saving, cost-cutting solutions that are easy to implement.
Changes in the legal industry
The changes being made focus on internal processes - reviewing, evaluating, and revising what can be changed. But it all starts a little bit sooner as well. We look at three steps that legal services businesses can take when it comes to updating how they work.
1. Benchmarking. It might take some time to wade through all of the available data on benchmarking in order to figure out where a company stands and how it stacks up against the competition. But ultimately, benchmarking is important for understanding how certain departments are performing and the average in the industry. From this clearer picture, businesses are then in a better place to look at what needs to be changed.
To provide a little more structure to the process of benchmarking, approaches that aim to evaluate how a company is doing follow a set of steps:
- Look at the internal company numbers first. It’s crucial to know beforehand where expenditures are happening, whether the rates are consistent across departments, case types, etc. What other costs are being added to client bills? Is there any overhead that hasn’t been factored in that should be included in order to better grasp the numbers?
- Next, look at numbers from other businesses. How do the numbers compare? In this step, it’s important to measure your business against those with the most similar size and composition - this will likely mean you’re targeting the same area of the market and can better evaluate the competitiveness of the business as far as rates.
2. Technology. Once you know where money is being spent, how much, and what this means for the client, it’s easier to take a look at how the work is being done. In today’s increasingly digital world, technology comes into play throughout our daily work. By first taking stock of where money is being spent internally, this helps to identify the current solutions in use - as well as gives a starting point for finding and implementing more efficient, effective, automated options that can meaningfully save time and help cut costs.
Legal departments in companies often have the luxury of being able to work with tech specialists in other departments in order to start using new software solutions. However, many law firms do not currently have this option. Thankfully, there are ready-made solutions available that can be easily implemented with minimal coding experience and can help facilitate compliant and secure processes, including:
- Intake workflows: onboarding new customers/clients can be highly time-consuming and require a large amount of manual data entry and management. The right software takes this process and automates it by offering secure online forms that gather the necessary details from every individual. Beyond that, it can also tailor the questions based on client responses, and provides the option of instant, verified electronic signatures.
- Document integrity: ensuring a document has not fallen into the wrong hands, been misplaced, or altered without authorization is difficult with traditional paper-based methods. Digital document workflows allow access only to those who are invited, apply time stamping to actions taken on the document, electronically seal the document to prevent tampering, and also provide a full activity log to quickly grasp all actions taken.
- Data security & management: the right software will also make it easy to work with the data gathered during use - this means a simple way to integrate with other systems such as digital document storage or data management. An open API is something to look for, as it makes even custom connections simpler and allows for the secure handling of data.
The right solutions can have a significant impact on the efficiency and security of a legal services business. This translates to higher levels of digital trust, a better client experience, and ultimately, lower costs for the business and client.
Legal businesses without someone to undertake the task of finding and implementing new solutions will need to take the time to do so internally or bring in someone to do the work and work collaboratively to get everyone up to speed.
3. Legal ops. Fortunately, there are teams that can come in and do exactly this - legal operations teams today focus mainly on precisely this: increasing automation through finding and introducing the right digital solutions for a business - taking a strategic approach to the challenge of digital transformation and working with restricted budgets.
Making changes is never easy. And many companies have been forced into changes they were not yet ready to manage with the onset of the pandemic. Traditional industries such as legal services face some additional hurdles when it comes to modernizing, but also stand to benefit considerably from making the transition.