While legal technology has always been important to law firms, it’s been especially critical over the last two years as law offices across the country have sought creative and sustainable ways to adapt to the sudden shift to remote working brought on by the pandemic.
Fortunately, legal technology has continued to evolve in response to new and increased needs. Here are the legal tech trends to look for as we head into 2022.
The continued flexibility of the cloud
Nothing supports remote work and collaboration like the cloud for busy lawyers and their clients. Native cloud practice management systems can be securely accessed anywhere, on any device. Not only does this mean your laptop at home, but it also includes your mobile device for on-the-go access.
In addition to location and device flexibility, a native cloud system is updated without your office needing to take special action. It relieves your team from losing time contacting the developer with individual glitches or installation issues, and you don’t have to wait for IT support to make the update. Instead, the update happens automatically across the entire cloud-based platform.
A client preference for digital
Your clients have spent the last two years conducting much of their lives and business transactions on digital platforms. It’s how they work, find services, and purchase household items.
For clients, law firms aren’t that different. They need to be able to find you online. Testimonials from satisfied clients can be beneficial once they’re on your website, but you also need to get them there in the first place.
Make sure your law firm’s website is discoverable through common search engines. For example, Google My Business can help you have a sense of the process.
And once you’re working with clients, they will expect digital options for services, too. This includes online client intake forms, video conferencing options, and electronic payments.
Automation of repetitive tasks
Law firms are working with increasing amounts of data. If you try to manage it all without the help of legal technology, you risk losing valuable billable hours.
In a 2018 study by McKinsey Global Institute, researchers found that 23% of a lawyer’s work can be automated. Routine, repetitive tasks don’t need to take up your time—legal tech can do them for you.
For instance, if your legal accounting and billing are part of the same system, then you only need to enter data once—not twice. The system can also track works-in-progress (WIPs) for you and let you know when client retainer balances drop too low against the value of legal work that hasn’t yet been billed. These systems can run three-way reconciliation for you, too.
Automated document creation is another key component of this trend. Lawyers can now draft templates of documents they use on a regular basis and have the individualized fields auto-populate with client information that’s stored in their practice management system.
Moving more legal work and processes online has resulted in an upsurge in cybercrime. And criminals know that law firms hold a lot of sensitive and private information about people, which makes them a prime target.
To cope with this threat and protect their reputations, law firms need to take serious measures to protect against cybersecurity threats.
Firms should seek to prepare themselves against external threats by using practice management systems with robust cybersecurity standards, making sure their data is encrypted in transit and at rest, and practicing backup redundancy.
Likewise, law firms need to train and educate their staff on good security practices, such as password management, recognizing phishing emails, and using secure devices and Internet connections for work. Because cybercrime continues to evolve, training needs to be ongoing so that staff understands the latest threats.
Tools that support remote collaboration
Law firms continue to need tools that support secure, remote collaboration.
For a team working from home, internal messaging is a great way to have quick communication that doesn’t merit a phone call, email, or Zoom meeting. The same holds true for working with outsourced support.
A secure client portal is a must for clients who want to do everything remotely. Because email attachments generally aren’t encrypted, law firms need a reliable method for securely sharing sensitive documents with their clients. A client portal lets law firms and their clients see the latest version of any document and take advantage of e-sign technology.
Insights from data
In the midst of all the upheaval of the last two years, law firms have continued to create and revise business goals for better performance and profitability—as they should.
In order to understand the financial patterns that inform these goals, however, firms need to be able to gather and analyze metrics. While this used to be a time-consuming process, the evolution of legal technology now makes it relatively straightforward.
Lawyers can now see revenue and profitability by the individual, as well as utilization and realization rates, cost analysis, and larger financial trends. This is critical information to have, both for informing goals in the first place and for using them as a measuring stick later so that lawyers can see where they’re meeting desired financial targets and where they’re falling short.
An awareness of the importance of client communications
The immediacy of our digital world creates a double-edged sword in terms of expectations around how quickly people get answers. More than ever before, clients want to hear updates on matters and have questions answered quickly.
Simultaneously, a new generation of lawyers is pushing for a better work-life balance.
Fortunately, a balance is possible with the help of partner services for phone and website chat communications. These features can give anxious clients peace of mind, and they’re on 24/7. Just remember that along with information, clients value compassion, so that’s an important feature to look for in any partner communication service.
Ongoing support through legal tech
With increased need from lawyers during the pandemic, legal tech has continued evolving and growing.
Trends for 2022 show that there’s a high demand for legal tech to support remote collaboration, assist law firms in satisfying clients’ desires for digital legal services, and offer more robust cybersecurity than ever before.
Legal tech can also help law firms save time through automating repetitive tasks and gathering metrics to better inform firms’ goals and growth moving forward.