Legal can learn two main lessons coming out of the pandemic: lawyers need to adopt tech, and also become more client-focused, in order to thrive. Jack Newton, Clio CEO and co-founder, explains more.
As the US experiences a vaccine rollout of over 100M+ strong, 2021 seems to be looking up. However, the lasting effects of a pandemic-driven need to effectively shutter offices and restrict in-person meetings for a good portion of 2020 have yet to be seen. One thing is certain though: if they haven’t already, lawyers need to take immediate action to protect the future of law firms.
Cloud-based legal technology is not a new concept—39 states have already adopted the lawyers’ duty of technology competence as of 2021. While many law firms have responded to the punctuated events of 2020 by adapting technology and client-centered solutions, many law firms still struggle significantly in this new reality.
Thanks to the pandemic, the legal industry has experienced an acceleration in this fundamental mindset shift. With more lawyers dipping their toes in remote work, the benefits to both firms and clients have become clear.
"Lawyers are often risk-averse by trade, for good reason. But as the pandemic has shown us, failing to embrace technology is turning out to be the real risk for legal teams"
Understanding tech adoption challenges through VUCA 🤖
To understand how lawyers can take advantage of this changing landscape with minimal risk while maximizing benefits, it’s important to understand the past and current challenges to technology adoption—one way to do so is through the framework of VUCA:
While we've been living in a VUCA world for some time now, the pandemic over the past year dramatically increased the amount of volatility and uncertainty for law firms’ future. Lawyers are often risk-averse by trade, for good reason. They’re professionals who’ve been trained to constantly contemplate worst-case scenarios, with someone’s life or liberty potentially on the line.
But as the pandemic has shown us, failing to embrace technology is turning out to be the real risk for legal teams. As restrictions were put in place, firms scrambled to give staff, and clients, access to key information needed for cases that were previously only available on-premise. Not to mention the challenges of coordinating effective communication with your clients if you previously relied on in-person meetings.
On-premise vs. cloud-based solutions ☁️
While there were initial doubts over the security of the cloud in the late 2000s, it’s now widely accepted that cloud-based solutions are more secure than on-premise solutions. Gartner estimated in 2020, public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads suffered at least 60 per cent fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers.
The business world is shifting, and for many, the cloud has become so prevalent that the idea of using an on-premise server seems antiquated. Unlike on-premise solutions of the past, cloud-based systems allow lawyers to securely access their practices from anywhere.
The need for secure, remote access has only become more pronounced through the pandemic. The reality is that COVID-19 has divided law firms into two groups: Those that have rapidly adapted to the new realities of the COVID-19 landscape, and those that are unable or unwilling to change.
In this new reality, there will be some law firms that struggle significantly and some that will fail outright. But the law firms that rapidly adapt will be the law firms that not only survive, but thrive in our new legal environment. According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, firms studied using the cloud-based technologies saw much better year-over-year business performance throughout the pandemic.
"50 per cent of consumers say they’re more comfortable with technology now, and 56 per cent believe that most legal matters can be dealt with remotely, over a video call"
Switching to a client-centered approach 🤗
The definition of “client-centered” varies from firm to firm and has changed as the industry evolved. Previously, this meant prioritizing security and privacy at all costs, even if it causes issues in transparency and accessibility through the limitations of on-premise technology at the time.
However, technology has now caught up to the point where security and accessibility are not mutually exclusive and the definition of being “client-centered” has changed.
Last year, with the inability to have consultations in person, being client-centered meant keeping clear lines of communication open. Clients who had ongoing cases needed to be able to properly communicate with lawyers and get timely updates. At the same time, it was important for those that ran into legal issues as a result of the pandemic to be able to easily seek legal counsel.
According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, 50 per cent of consumers say they’re more comfortable with technology now than they were before the pandemic, and 56 per cent believe that most legal matters can be dealt with remotely, and would prefer to do it over a video call.
Even as firms re-open, the future of legal services will need to consider these customer expectations going forward.
The future of law firms, lawyers, and legal services ⚖️
Today’s lawyers are increasingly working more and more from remote locations. Cloud-based software gives you access to the information you need, when and where it is needed.
Security and accessibility are no longer mutually exclusive and instead are mutually dependent factors that are crucial for the success of future law firms. As I’ve written in The Client-Centered Law Firm, putting clients first inspires law firms to focus on efficient, productive back-office processes alongside providing good client service.
The pandemic and the switch to remote work will have a long-term effect on nearly everything about the future of law firms, lawyers, and legal services. When lawyers can leverage technology to help streamline their workflows, they’re also able to provide excellent, effortless client experiences at every stage of the client journey.
It’s clear that things are changing—but lawyers can drive change towards a better normal for the industry, rather than being at the whims of the changing world around them. By responding to client needs and driving further adoption of the cloud, future law firms will contribute to a better normal both within the legal industry and beyond.
Jack Newton is the CEO and Founder of Clio, the leader in cloud-based legal technology.