3 Reasons Legal Technology Still Isn’t Working For Your Law Firm
February 3, 2023
As we look at today’s legal landscape, it’s clear we have advanced by what feels like decades in only a few short years. Since 2020, law firms have learned how to work from anywhere, provide clients with the same (or better) levels of service remotely, and run their firms as efficient, profitable businesses. What made this change possible? Legal technology.
In an encouraging shift, law firms are no longer tentatively dipping their toes into the tech waters. While legal professionals used to be wary of non-traditional processes and less-tested solutions, they are now eager to utilize tools that better serve their clients and help their staff work more efficiently, no matter when or where they are working.
But as our report, The Great Automation: How Law Firms Are Entering a New Era in 2023, revealed, there’s still a long road ahead to harness the true power of all this legal tech. Here’s why your law firm may still struggle to optimize the technology you’ve invested in this year.
1. Your legal technology is a tangled web
While there is a strong appetite for new legal technology as firms shift to remote work and meet clients’ expectations to go virtual, our research shows that legal professionals may have overcorrected. Survey respondents told us that they are investing in multiple new platforms to solve the many challenges they’ve faced recently:
Now, there’s a disparate pile of tech clutter, from video conferencing platforms to online billing systems to client intake portals. Each tool does one thing well, but there are grey areas of overlapping functionality, resulting in messy processes for your team. In other words, law firms have created a tangled web of tech solutions that solve one problem but do not seamlessly connect and automate the entire legal workflow.
While having all of your bases covered is positive, the problem is that these separate technology platforms aren’t talking to each other. Your staff becomes the manual messenger between systems, which means tech is not making your life much easier.
2. Your staff needs more education
Another gap in legal technology adoption is that law firms are not properly showing their staff how to use new investments. Technology is only as good as its users, and a law firm’s assets go to waste if they don’t coach their workforce through use cases and best practices.
Smokeball’s data shows that even though a vast majority of law firms have introduced innovative solutions in the last two years, staffers are still wasting time on administrative tasks that could be solved by technology:
These manual processes come at a cost: 38% of law firms say they’ve had to push back sending out invoices due to a delay in people inputting their hours. And only 33% inflict a penalty when staffers don’t submit their hours on time. That all adds up to considerable losses in unpaid invoices and hours wasted on manual time entry.
So if you’re thinking about adding to your law firm’s tech stack this year, add “employee onboarding” to your to-do list. Don’t consider your new platform officially launched until your team confidently knows how to use it and incorporate it into their day-to-day.
3. You haven’t connected the dots between your clients and your legal tech
Investing in new technology is ultimately about providing clients with the best possible service. But often, law firms miss a piece of the puzzle when they adopt a new tech solution: educating their customers on how to use the platform best and communicating how it will affect their working relationships.
Just as law firms need to educate their own staff about new technology, they must also assist clients on their journey. What does that look like? Here are just a few examples:
- When onboarding a new client, give them a virtual tour of your client portal, so they know where to find information throughout their case
- Before video calls, send clients an email with instructions on how to join
- When clients sign a document, send an automated confirmation so they know their signature was accepted
- Send automated payment reminders with instructions on how to process invoices
Making sure your clients know about and understand how to use their legal technology isn’t just good customer service. This enablement is your ethical and professional duty. So be sure to bake education into your workflow throughout the client experience.
Automating law firm workflows legal technology
Law firms have made positive strides toward making legal technology a part of their everyday workflows. But they’re still falling short when it comes to making digital solutions truly work—with wasted hours on administrative chores, a lack of visibility for their teams, and poor customer service for their clients.
As we head towards the next era, the goal will no longer be to add new tech platforms to the roster. Automation will be the name of the game, and successful law firms will focus on optimizing the tools they already have. The result: an end-to-end legal workflow that makes your firm run like a well-oiled machine.
“We’re moving beyond the adoption era for legal technology. The next phase will be about streamlining: how do we combine all of our disconnected platforms so that they share information between each other, automate manual processes, and reduce confusion for our legal staff?”
— Sara Sultan, Senior Smokeball Trainer
The good news is that a silver bullet already exists to help you streamline your entire legal workflow in one place. Check out our latest report to learn more about the state of the law in 2023 and find out how your firm can optimize your tech stack this year.
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