Technology: The competitive advantage for smart law firms

TSusanna_Jameshis week we are featuring a guest blog by Susanna James  at HighQ.

Susanna James is Content Marketing Manager at HighQ, the leading provider of innovative enterprise collaboration and content management solutions to the world’s leading law firms, financial services companies, governments and corporations.

May 3, 2016

The legal sector is at a tipping point when it comes to technology. The industry has typically been slow to adapt and adopt new technologies – but things are changing.

The recent rise of bespoke technological solutions that solve problems law firms face has contributed to this, with a glut of platforms providing secure client extranets, knowledge management and document management solutions now available.

But having the right technology is just the first step towards innovation. As James Akrigg, Head of Technology for Microsoft, said:

“Technology is at a point of change, its impact now on customers and how law firms enable their own employees is critical, technology is no longer about “information technology” but is now being used to drive “innovation and transformation” in the legal market.”

What James is referring to is the tendency for law firms to keep their technology separate from the rest of the business. The IT department has typically been seen as just another facility, one that should be seen but never heard.

For firms to succeed in the future, the legal IT department should be seen as the cradle of innovation where law firms go to develop new and efficient legal products, streamline internal processes, reduce overheads and gain a competitive advantage.

How to harness technology for competitive advantage

In the increasingly competitive legal market, it is firms that provide added value to their services that can get ahead. The key to this is to identify areas where processes can be improved to save the client time or enhance their profitability.

As well as legal expertise, smart law firms should provide legal solutions – transactional products and services that can be used to save the client time and money and improve efficiency and accuracy.

These can be complexed solutions, such as workflows for automating the due diligence; document automation for managing the contract review process; or secure file sharing and extranets.

But it also means making sure things just work as they should. Technology should make things simpler and save users time, through technologies such as document synchronization.

Document management solutions can be improved by employing a synchronization solution, like SeeUnity’s, which means that whenever a new document is uploaded to the DM, it is synchronized for all users across the platform.

This instantly saves time for all users – both within the firm and outside of it – and ensures that everyone has access to the latest version with no need to manually find and update all versions of this document.

Presenting clients with solutions such as these at pitch stage will help smart law firms stand out far beyond firms that are still working with Word documents and email.

For firms, saving money in unbillable hours means that they can provide more value for their clients, charging them for legal expertise and technological products.

How innovation birthed the smart law firm

It’s easy for firms to mistakenly think that investing in technology is all that is required for solving problems within the firm with the hope of gaining a competitive advantage. In fact, some problems are best solved by people and process improvement.

Technology is the tool that aids this improvement – it is not the solution in itself. Smart law firms gain competitive advantage through the intelligent and appropriate use of technology, automating what makes sense to automate and creating products of work that can be commoditized.

Above all, smart firms encourage collaboration between lawyers and technologists, with the legal engineer as the bridge between the two. The position of legal engineer is highly valued in a smart law firm, combining legal knowledge with technological expertise required to create solutions that meet the needs of the firm or the firm’s clients.

The takeaway

Smart law firms understand that technology is only going to become more critical to their success in the future. In order to stay ahead, they must truly differentiate their offering through innovative legal services that add value to clients and increase their return on investment.

In order to achieve this, firms must act soon to integrate technology and technologists into their legal teams and change the way the firm thinks to a transactional, technological mindset – whereby process improvement and innovation lead the firm’s culture.

Posted on: May 3, 2016