The legal sphere is no less immune to Covid-19 than any other area of life, and those able to adapt to the challenges will be in the best position going forwards. A timely report from UKLTA (the UK Legal Tech Association) and Thompson Reuters looks at how legal firms choose and adopt digital tools and solutions and will be of interest to legal teams and tech innovators alike.
ULKTA and Thompson Reuters held a series of pre-COVID-19 roundtable discussions across the UK and conducted a pulse survey in mid-2020 to ensure the report reflected the changing situation.
Using discussion points such as ‘what drives a decision to invest in new technology or ways of working?’, ‘what challenges do you face when adopting a solution?’ and ‘how do law firms want to work with customers?’ the report clearly sets out, in the voice of the lawyers who will be adopting and using new tools, what tech innovators should be aware of as well as considerations and reflection for legal firms grappling with these decisions.
The big change in 2020 is rapidly changing client needs and how law firms respond to this. It is no surprise to see most firms anticipating a reduction in property-based work and an increase in employment and business restructuring work.
For firms or General Counsels (GCs) expecting an increase in demand for their work or needing new skills in their teams, innovative solutions that support lawyers and legal teams with guidance and research will ensure they retain and even expand their client base. For firms or GCs anticipating a reduction in work and using furloughs and reduced hours to weather the storm, technology which emphasises efficiency will be more important.
Leaving the immediate effects of the pandemic, the report is candid about the barriers facing innovators trying to launch new tools and products in the legal sphere.
One barrier mentioned is the importance and scarcity of time for lawyers and legal firms. Tech solutions need clearly show how they will save time, from the initial contact through to adoption and use. For legal professionals to invest their time in considering new tools, tech products that can clearly show quick and easy integration are much more likely to be considered as a viable option.
Once adopted, learning to use a new system and change practices can take time – so how can tech firms show this commitment will deliver a clear time-saving in the future? What can tech firms do to reduce this time burden? Suggestions from roundtable participants include concentrating on functional and easy to use interfaces, ensuring seamless integration with existing tools, and guaranteeing they are easy to learn: “Tools have to become more user friendly to gain acceptance. It needs to be pick up and play.”
Another barrier noted in the report is that “Lawyers are traditionally risk-averse. They want risk-averse ways of doing things”. Often they will look to see what other firms are using to assess risk – which can make being a start-up especially difficult.
But the report contains encouragement and ideas for innovators to overcome this. Listening to the client and acting on feedback, being flexible with adapting your product, and using a ‘land and expand’ model – where one team or department uses a new tool and demonstrates the benefits to the wider company are just some of the suggestions made in the report.
UKLTA Chairperson, Matt Pennington said: “at this time innovation is more critical than ever – but the risks of adopting new tools remain. Thanks to Thompson Reuters’ support this project and the report will help those with innovative solutions better understand the lawyer perspective, and there is plenty of learning and reflecting to help the legal side when discussing and adopting new tech solutions too.”
With LegalTech expanding rapidly and offering more online solutions and opportunities, this report will help anyone working in legal tech or thinking about adopting new tools understand key touchpoints, refine their strategy, and ensure success in adopting new technology for both sides.