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Law Firm Digitalization / Legal Tech – Essential aspects


And suddenly there is no other priority than the IT capability of the law firm. What has been neglected for years must now be implemented in days / hours. Fact is: those law firms will emerge from the Corona crisis as winners who can understand and use IT correctly.

We have been developing law firm software since 2010 and how nice it was when Legal Tech first came up and created a much sharper awareness of IT in law firms. But as in many trends, many gurus and spin doctors appeared and promised magical marvels by means of the even more magical AI, the artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, a lot of capital was destroyed here.

But according to the motto “crisis as opportunity” – it took a crisis like this to create awareness for the really essential areas of law firm digitalization. Law firms need to have the following areas firmly under control in order not only to be prepared for another crisis, but – in the short and medium term (!) – to be able to survive in the market. The areas are deliberately only briefly described, as a detailed description would go far beyond the scope of this article.

Legal Cloud
As a law firm you have very special requirements regarding data storage. Not only must the data be stored in accordance with GDPR, but you must also meet legal and professional requirements such as protection against seizure, etc.
Meanwhile there are some providers like e.g. the MANZ Cloud, who provide such solutions. Such providers have redundant systems for data protection, incremental backups, etc. The migration to a legal cloud must be your first step towards digitalization.

Remote access / Digital workrooms internally and for clients
Staying in front of the desk as a record of performance is history. You need to create digital workspaces that are quickly available for client service and internal collaboration. Such rooms must be regularly maintained and tested. If IT professionals are too expensive for you, train internal staff. This training must be repeated regularly.

Digital record keeping
In some countries the digital act already exists. But you also have to make a radical end to bulky paper folders. This data needs to be scanned and – very important – correctly indexed. This indexing has to be done in a suitable database, which also uses this data for other purposes like training, internal/external communication etc. It is essential to be able to note during indexing which data is confidential and which data can be used for external communication.

Collaborative approach to processing documents
If you always use email for every small request to colleagues or clients, you urgently need to use collaboration tools. These tools, such as Microsoft Teams, allow you to create a chat room for a particular act or topic, for example, where you can quickly exchange information.

Agile project management
As soon as more than 2 people work on one act, they have to coordinate themselves accordingly. Neither a casual meeting over coffee nor neurotic forced meetings during the day are suitable. An agile project management tool such as Microsoft Planner shows everyone the status of the work at any time. Inquiries can be made immediately in a planned task. Nobody has to refer to a task first.

Data collection and structuring
For example, if you have to collect data via Excel every time you need to make a profitability calculation, you simply won’t do it often. Especially in controlling, but also in other business management areas of the firm, systems have to provide you with data at the push of a button.

Emails are the last resort! E-mails are pretty much the most unsafe thing you can use. Even encrypted e-mails are still inferior to a well designed cloud solution. You should therefore send links to documents that are in a cloud.
Also be careful with the rights management. You should not do everything that you can do regarding data sharing.
And finally: Please, please train your employees! The biggest risk for IT systems is always in front of the PC.

Tools for an acceleration of Electronic Discovery
Anyone who still makes Electronic Discovery purely manually today has lost. No, there is no AI to do all the work for you here, but there are good systems that allow a strong partial automation. Even if you only write a small Visual Basic Script, which for example quickly recognizes the term XY and marks it in red, you – and the client – save a lot of time.

Customer/Client Relationship Management
Multiple pitches from different teams to the same client, forgetting about essential personal preferences of the client, misplacing offers, missing cross-selling – if this sounds familiar to you, you need a CRM system. No, please do not buy sinfully expensive Salesforce solutions. Often what you have in Office On Board, i.e. free of charge (!), such as the Business Contact Manager from Microsoft, is sufficient.

Back Office Automation: Submissions, marketing / content collection and creation
If you have to search through the last 5 presentations each time to create a pitch, you are already way behind. Your marketing software has to collect all relevant information so that you can produce pitches, submissions, press releases, engagement letters etc. at the push of a button. The software must be managed by an expressly commissioned agency.

Back office automation: time and activity recording
These systems must provide interfaces to all other systems such as controlling. Proprietary isolated solutions are a thing of the past.

Industry-specific tools that clients demand
The mature client is now the rule rather than the exception. Industry-specific tools for the presentation of services and accounting for law firms must be mastered by you and offered to the client on your own.

Further tools for contract preparation etc.
There are tons of other tools available, e.g. for drafting contracts, searching for verdicts etc. Please be careful when buying these tools and check them using very specific use cases. There is still no AI that replaces lawyers! But there are very good databases that can help you massively.

Cultural changes / expectations
Last but not least: You have to change your law firm culture in such a way that IT competence is a must and not a nice-to-have. You need to train your employees at all levels and offer regular training. Especially in recruiting, IT competence must be essentiell – not just anice to have.
And most importantly: You must have a clear view of IT. No software is a miracle that runs by itself after purchase. You must always be aware that you and your team must also feed and update the system with data. To do this, appropriate roles must be assigned within the firm when selecting and testing the systems. For example, everyone who creates a file must be trained – and obliged – to transfer marketing relevant information into appropriate software and make it available to the entire firm.

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