Digital Transformation in Legal Industry- Improving Legal Operations

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting multiple industries, including healthcare, travel, financial welfare and political stability of nations across the globe. Restrictions on movement have also affected the legal industry and highlighted the significance of digital transformation in legal industry.

Nowadays, law organizations have not been immune to clients, affecting their business activity. Many M&A transactions are on hold and courts are closed. Just like most of the world, law firms have also made the transition to a work-from-home environment, depending more than ever on technology to drive efficiency and connect employees.

The transition to the digital environment has been easier for organizations that had already invested in technology solutions and collaboration tools over the last few years. However, the legal industry tends to lag in technology adoption as compared to general business.

We believe that life will be quite different once the immediate crisis of the pandemic diminishes. According to Tom Friedman’s New York Times Op-ed, the coronavirus will introduce a new historical divide: Before-Corona (BC) and After-Corona (AC).

So, the question, is how will COVID-19 transform the legal industry and what it will look like post-COVID19? The answer is: the coronavirus will result in the digital transformation of the legal sector.

New challenges emerge as the tech market diversifies. Companies need to look out for best-fit digital solutions that deliver ROI and maximize budgets. We shall discuss the three “C”s changes that we expect to experience after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this article, we will cover the following topics:

Digital transformation in legal industry means digitizing every aspect of the legal experience, including service delivery, workflow, processes, team collaboration and client engagement. The speed and flow of work in the traditional law firm might seem as compared to the pace and instant satisfaction that consumers would expect from present-world digital tools.  

Therefore, just like other industries, the legal sector is also poised to experience a lot of digitization during or after the COVID-19 outbreak. 

  1. Cultural Change
    Digital transformation in legal industry has been making its way toward widespread technology adoption. Transformation in legal culture will change the way legal operations are executed. 

    For example, legal firms nowadays are adopting document automation technology that allows them to streamline critical processes, including document review, document redaction and form data capture. This is just one example; there are multiple areas of legal culture where legal firms can experience digital transformation.  

  2. Collaboration and Communication 
    Due to the restrictions on movements, legal firms are also working remotely and adopting technologies to communicate effectively. It is expected that law firms will increase the availability of remote work options. Since clients expect instant and personalized digitally-proficient service, legal firms are looking to adopt technology solutions and best practices that facilitate communication anytime and anywhere.
  3. Casework Consolidation
    The Balance reveals that ongoing amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are switching the landscape of litigation as electronically stored information (ESI), including text messages, emails, mobile data and mixed media. It involves all the data that is crucial for successful casework.

    Law firms need technology solutions that consolidate casework efforts and empower eDiscovery processes, making it easier to obtain what they are looking for and enable effective access control. Tech solutions can help handle casework seamlessly. 

Cultural Change

  1. Document Automation
    Document Automation is the technology that is used to facilitate the drafting stage. It helps lawyers and legal experts organize all the legal documents into a single system, allowing them to maintain multiple versions and generate customized documents quickly. 

    With document automation, you can automate the processing of complex contracts and agreements by generating sophisticated document templates that can be easily modified with details related to the deal. Moreover, you can quickly create and execute Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). 

    It will reduce a lot of paperwork required to create long contracts, agreements and will documents. Also, you won’t need to spend time reading legal documents from top to bottom. You will be able to stay organized while maximizing the productivity of your team.   

  2. e-Billing
    The e-Billing procedure enhances cash flow via easier and quicker billing practices while reducing billing errors. It improves efficiency with real-time status tracking, decreases billing complexity and achieves a reliable and efficient automated billing process.

    Though you can find various e-billing vendors that have emerged to assist general counsels in accepting e-bills from outside law firms, there are only a few solutions available to generate and deliver e-bills to clients. That is why law firms have not been able to leverage all the benefits of e-billing solutions.  

    Using advanced e-billing solutions, legal firms will no more have to store a stack of paper bills and enter items into spreadsheets to create bills. Instead, automated e-billing solutions allow legal firms to generate invoices automatically without human intervention and share with other law firms. 

  3. e-Filing
    It is not sure when life will come back to the new normal. Until then, we all would have to restrain ourselves from going outside a lot. Therefore, the demand for e-filing is rising as people are looking to file their cases online as they cannot go to courts amid the pandemic.

    With the introduction of e-filing apps, undertrials and convicts can directly connect with the court by filing petitions and documents online. Using the digital solution, it can become possible to pay court fees, penalty, fine and other types of fees online. 

    Since summons can be made available on the mobile apps with e-filing applications, delayed cases can speed up as summons can be submitted quickly. 

    Electronic filing saves money for both the involved parties, legal professionals and clients. Parties will not have to mail documents physically and there will not be any need to send hard copies to chambers for a judge’s reviews. 

    As soon as someone files a document with the court, it is checked and approved immediately. It is not required to wait for a document to be returned in case it gets rejected. Moreover, people would not need to physically visit the courthouse, allowing legal firms to have more time to work in legal documents. 

  4. e-Hearings 
    The COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on the legal fraternity across the world. Following the imposition of lockdown and fewer movements in several nations, courts in many countries have suspended work for a few weeks or notified minimum sitting.

    Therefore, under the circumstances of minimizing physical contacts and ensuring social distancing, the significant consideration is how can the judicial system still run effectively and ensure the delivery of justice timely. 

    Such factors have introduced the concept of e-Hearings that means hearings via the digital networks, for example, video conferencing. All the involved parties can connect via audio-video enabled web conferencing. 

    e-hearings is beneficial as it saves high court costs in terms of infrastructure, security, transportation costs and the transfer of criminals from the jail to courts. 

    Until everything gets back to the new normal, courts can effectively proceed with the digital hearings and can even implement it post-COVID-19 for small legal cases to save more time and money. 

  5. Remote Working 
    Organizations are being pushed to implement regular work-from-home practices and policies for the last many years. Though the legal profession is typically slow to update, when forced into the change due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it has been clear that legal operations can run efficiently remotely.

    Legal firms require technology solutions to implement effective and reliable work-from-home policies. You don’t need to develop a new solution from scratch. Instead, you can integrate web conferencing and payroll solutions with your existing app or website to manage your remote workers.

    While integrating or using any tool, you need to consider the security of the information transferred during remote working. Legal data could be more confidential; therefore, you need to consult the right technology partner who understands security aspects and helps you to provide the best and secure solution. 

  6. Time-recording programs
    Time recording programs enable law firms to track and record the time spent by a legal professional on a specific issue. Legal firms can use time recording software to record all the active desktop and web activity, GPS location and mobile calls.

    All the recorded data can be converted into accurate timesheets for billing purposes using AI. It helps organizations track employees’ productivity and provides them the easiest way to manage billing with minimal effort. 

  7. Contactless Attendance
    From legal to healthcare, IT, manufacturing and retail industry, every sector is going to replace its biometric attendance system with a contactless attendance system. It will reduce the risk of the spread of infection by minimizing touches on the attendance scanner.

    Attendance systems are usually the first point of contact for every employee. Therefore, there is a risk of containment of the spread of the virus at the doorstep of your office. The future of office hygiene would need the termination of the biometric attendance system.    

    Attendance of legal employees can be recorded via CCTV or IP cameras installed in the office premises. HRs or managers can track real-time attendance records of employees using RTSP-enabled cameras. 

  8. Voice Recognition for Booking Appointments and Searching Availability
    The legal industry has been implementing voice technology for the last two decades in dictation and transcription. Dictation and transcription has always been significant to legal firms as people always speak faster than they can type. For instance, dictating one page of text takes around two minutes while typing that page may take approximately 14 minutes.

    Dictation microphones can be integrated with speech recognition software and dictation recorder apps. After the voice-based dictation and transcription technology, legal industries have now embraced voice assistant technology. 

    Voice assistants in the legal industry help people perform, for example, booking appointments with legal experts, searching nearby lawyers and searching for something important through documents via voice. 

  9. Due diligence using AI
    Legal professionals have to carry out exhaustive background checks and read documents deeply to reveal information regarding their cases. The data collected by legal experts can be used to facilitate better decision making and providing sound counsel to clients.

    AI can help quicken the tedious work to carry out the due diligence more accurately and efficiently. 

  10. Social Distancing Alert System
    Social distancing alert system can be used in legal organizations post-COVID-19 to ensure that employees are maintaining a certain distance to minimize the chances of the spread of the virus.

    Distance between employees can be monitored via IP or CCTV cameras installed in offices. If any employees are detected not following the social distancing guidelines, the system sends an alert to the employee’s mobile phone or triggers a voice alarm. 

Communication and Collaboration

  1. Video Conferencing Tools
    As technology enhances with each passing day, business owners have a lot of opportunities in their arsenal that they can tap into. Using video conferencing for law firms is one of such solutions as it allows business owners and employees to connect with each other and their clients quickly and seamlessly.The legal sector industry can benefit the most from video conferencing because lawyers depend on face-to-face consultations and meetings to settle deals, communicate with clients and improve their practices. Video conferencing allows legal professionals to carry out all these tasks at their convenience, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency.

    Video conferencing is a practical approach to reducing travel expenses and time as it allows its users to mimic a professional meeting room setting and environment. If legal professionals have cases with witnesses scattered all over the country or overseas and courthouses in other cities or clients located in different parts of the world, video conferencing facilitates these connections to continue successfully: all through technology that is reliable and enables a crisp, clear sound.

    Since people are unable to travel to other countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing tools can help legal experts connect remotely. You can integrate the video conferencing APIs into your existing website or app to interact with clients quickly.

  2. Rise of Remote Working
    Technology has dramatically transformed how to practice the law and what it means to be a lawyer — whether at a law firm or in-house. And this transformation is evident both in terms of being connected to the office at all times and the improved ability to access information anytime and from anywhere. Driven by that connectivity, long days at the office are enabling more flexible arrangements. Remote work in the corporate legal sector has now become a possibility due to the emerging technologies. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the legal industry to work from home just like many other industries.

    Working from home for lawyers has prompted a realization that working remotely is wallet-friendly and technologically feasible. It is believed that the trend of working from home will continue even after the governments allow movements as people would be scared to resume their working styles until they get a vaccine for COVID-19.

    Using real-time communication apps, legal experts can communicate both with their clients and co-workers. It will help in enabling quick and efficient communication and collaboration.

  3. Online Training
    Since law schools, universities and legal firms are temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, law practice and studies have also shifted online. For example, law practitioners can interact with their teachers via video/audio conferencing or real-time messaging apps.Also, legal firms and institutions can organize webinars for law interns to ensure that their practice and education are not affected due to adverse conditions and restricted movements.
  4. Virtual Legal Assistants/AI-enabled Chatbots
    Chatbots are transforming almost every industry and they can also provide legal services to people using AI technology. People can initiate an online chat with a virtual legal assistant or a chatbot to get a quick help they require.Using automated legal chatbots, lawyers can save the time they spend in answering small queries of clients. They will be able to focus on competencies that matter a lot to them, thereby offering better service to clients.

    For example, an AI-based legal chatbot can help clients arrange meetings with lawyers based on their requirements. Also, chatbots can help legal organizations generate more leads by carrying out intelligent conversations with clients and encouraging them to provide their contact information.

Casework Consolidation 

  1. eDiscovery Software
    eDiscovery software enables legal experts to process, review and generate electronic documents as part of the investigation or lawsuit. It can help attorneys explore valuable information related to any case while mitigating risks, pacing up resolutions and reducing costs. 

    eDiscovery is the legal procedure using which parties can exchange information and evidence with one another digitally. eDiscovery software is not just used to review documents, but also to conduct internal investigations and tax audits. The software works, depending on various factors, including the data you want to review, the length of review, the amount and the complexity of data. It reduces the cost of extensive paperwork. 

  2. Legal Case Management Software
    Case management software makes it easy for attorneys to manage different areas of practice from one single solution. Whether you are at home or in the courthouse, case management software allows access to client details, matter details and all your files at any time.

    Case Management Software allows legal professionals to perform various functionalities, including client management, email management, matter management and reporting, document management and document automation.

Conclusion

Legal departments and organizations that leverage digital technologies can distinguish themselves from the competitive legal landscape. Technology is transforming the way we interact, creating a modern digital legal workspace. Though many organizations have already implemented technology solutions, more legal firms are planning to adapt to digital transformation post-COVID-19 to run their business processes without any hassles.

If you want to implement any of the above techniques into your legal operations, contact our technology experts who will make your legal digital transformation smoother and quicker.

Author’s Bio

Akash Takyar
Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the founder and CEO at LeewayHertz. With the experience of building over 100+ platforms for startups and enterprise allows Akash to rapidly architect and design solutions that are scalable and beautiful.
Akash's ability to build enterprise-grade technology solutions has attracted over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens, 3M, P&G and Hershey’s. Akash is an early adopter of new technology, a passionate technology enthusiast, and an investor in AI and IoT startups.

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