The Changing Landscape of Legal IT  

Today’s law firm is undeniably a digital one. The technology that has taken over the rest of our lives has fully ingrained itself into how the modern law firm does business. Gone are the days when lawyers could afford to be resistant to new technologies—remaining competitive in the legal market means embracing innovation, whether firms want to or not.

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Simply put, clients are demanding automation and innovation to an extent never before seen, and firms that fail to deliver will soon be surpassed by their competitors. The focus needs to shift away from relying solely on the status quo and good lawyering skills, and toward developing technologies that increase efficiency and make your firm stand out. To accomplish this, your firm’s IT department needs to be put to better use than simply serving as a support system for internal firm infrastructure. Now more than ever before, IT departments have the power to make a real difference in the areas of client development and revenue generation. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into the core fabric of your firm’s practices, your IT department can identify new avenues for attracting and retaining clients, while increasing efficiencies and boosting revenues at the same time.

Utilizing Your Resources to Their Fullest

Every law firm’s greatest resource is its people, from lawyers to support staff. The conundrum many firms face is that increasing efficiency can lead to undesirable layoffs. The good news, though, is it doesn’t have to. By reallocating your staff now in anticipation of the firm’s shift toward focusing on innovation, you can dedicate your employees to filling roles that generate revenue for the firm and maximize the use of their higher skill sets, rather than leaving them to languish in positions which may no longer be needed. By training your people to do more high-end work, you’ll not only be capitalizing on your best resource and maximizing the usefulness of your staff, you’ll also be generating more of the kind of work that brings in revenue. Automating processes can also help to significantly streamline projects like contract review, allowing you to hire three paralegals when you once might have needed six. Streamlining not only increases efficiency, it also frees up your experienced attorneys and staff to focus on more high-end work, again increasing revenues.

Beyond maximizing the utilization of your current workforce, automation can go a long way toward helping with hiring and staffing going forward. The data residing within your firm can be invaluable in determining which attorneys are most likely to succeed at your firm. Similarly, external data sets can show the likelihood that lateral hires at the partner and associate level will mesh with the firm’s strategy and culture.

Expanding Into New Practice Areas

AI is not only useful for identifying opportunities for landing new clients, but also for finding new ways to serve existing clients. The same AI that’s monitoring data and intelligence to pinpoint new market opportunities can be used to review the firm’s current revenue streams and client portfolios to identify any changes that need to be made or additional ways firm resources can be used to increase offerings to existing clients.

Take, for example, a major client for whom the firm routinely handles complex litigation matters. Chances are that client has a lot going on outside the litigation arena and the cases the firm is handling. By strategically assessing the client’s needs, the firm can make targeted offerings for additional services. If that client needs M&A work and your firm has an M&A department, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be offering to handle those matters once you’ve identified that the need exists. If they’re happy with the innovation you’re offering in your current representation, that can make your firm stand out from the sea of M&A powerhouses who are vying for the company’s business. Identifying new practice areas can mean more work for the firm, and more work means increased revenues.

Assessing Outcomes

Another way to boost client confidence and satisfaction is by increasing your ability to accurately assess outcome probabilities for the cases you’re handling. By once again harnessing the data you have available and analyzing it with sophisticated AI, you can begin to provide your clients with a data-supported picture of their likelihood of success in various areas.

Outcome assessment should be tailored to the specific areas in which you practice. If you primarily handle litigation matters, assessing outcomes will focus on using data, tools, and algorithms to help you determine whether it’s worthwhile to take on specific clients and assist your clients in determining whether it’s worthwhile to pursue certain cases. Transactional practices will have different considerations in play, but the same principles apply. One of AI’s biggest draws is the ability to assist in the assessment of outcomes and identify those matters that are most likely to be advantageous for your clients and profitable for your firm.

The key is to focus on your strongest practice areas and start there. Wherever your strengths lie is where you’re most likely to benefit from outcome assessment. Incorporating innovative and predictive technologies into your firm requires a significant investment of time and resources, so focusing on the greatest possible growth areas is the best way to fully reap the gains of AI.

The Way Forward

Law firms saw great advances in AI in 2017, and 2018 will likely see the envelope being pushed even further. Staying on the cutting edge of innovation is going to keep your clients coming back with more work while using the data you already possess to determine which work the firm should pursue and which lawyers can best handle it will keep your revenues on an upward trajectory.

Strategically implementing new tools and incorporating AI into the DNA of your firm is the only way to ensure that technology is cost-effective. AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it intuitive for most firms. However, rapid adoption by firms is making AI a necessary tool to complement the firm’s legal expertise. By focusing your IT department on determining the best innovations for your particular firm, and providing lawyers with the training to maximize the benefit from AI and tools, your firm can optimize its client development and revenue generation efforts. Innovation is the key to remaining competitive, and your IT department is your best source for figuring out how to make technology work for you.

About the Author

Arup Das is CEO of Alphaserve Technologies, a global provider of managed technology services and solutions.

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