With the pandemic finally on its knees after more than a year, it’s time to lick our wounds and see how the legal industry has changed.
The predictions made at the beginning of 2020 were overwhelmingly positive in regard to legal automation. Now that the buzz has died down, has automation become a game-changer in modern law offices, or was the pandemic-induced surge of legal tech investments just a short-term survival strategy?
Let’s find out.
1. The Beginning Stages
The events of 2020 afforded everyone the opportunity to stop in their tracks and reconsider the old paradigms in the work culture of most traditional law firms.
Granted, there was an immediate upward trajectory in the adoption of legal software. To an extent, this only happened in order to facilitate a semblance of a familiar work environment.
While cloud-based practice management solutions became a primary method of enabling remote work, more advanced technology, such as legal analytics, didn’t see wide adoption. At the time, it simply wasn’t as necessary for survival.
However, working remotely during the virus revealed many shortcomings and weaknesses in legal operations, solidifying the notion that technology is the only way to move forward.
2. The Tipping Point
Legal software and legal automation gained a lot of ground even before the pandemic. Due to an increase in clients’ demands for a faster, more affordable service, software such as contract analytics software or e-discovery was established as the main ways of solving inefficiencies.
As previously stated, remote working finally revealed the cracks that were always there but were invisible. Soon, it became apparent that workflow automation is the key to not only survival but a way to efficiently and swiftly solve familiar old problem. For example, automating routine tasks emerged as a necessity, as was the case with document automation, tools for legal service requests, and invoice approvals.
It wasn’t surprising that many law firms were initially struggling with implementing technology into their workflow. Still, they fairly quickly realized many benefits to automated processes, such as faster completion times and a lower chance of human errors.
3. The Road Ahead
The new wave of innovation isn’t likely to stop now that the world is slowly returning to normal again. Once your eyes are open, it’s hard to go back to ignorance.
A Mitratech survey revealed that most corporate legal departments, for instance, predict that remote working will still stay relevant. Furthermore, 77% predict that the use of automation will continue to increase in the future.
Law firms will keep leveraging automation technology as aside from cost-related benefits, it also plays a huge part in client satisfaction. We are most likely going to see more automation in the client intake process, as well as billing processes.
4. Are There Dangers To Automation?
The newfound surge in workflow automation did, however, raise a number of concerns relating to job losses.
The economic repercussions of the pandemic aside, the threat of being replaced by an algorithm is still looming in the air.
Lawyers don’t need to worry, but the same can’t be said about other lower-tiered jobs in the legal market. For instance, Gartner predicts legal secretaries are already being abandoned in favor of virtual legal assistants (VLA’s).
The trend of cutting costs by eliminating routine tasks isn’t stopping anytime soon. We’re just going to have to wait and see how and if legal automation is going to develop in the coming years and if it is going to cause any disruptions to legal support staff.
The Bigger Picture
Pandemic-fueled workflow automation is going to continue redefining the inner workings of the modern law firm. This is good news for an industry famous for its struggles to keep up with the digital age.
The trend is going to become even more prevalent after the pandemic and there will be no going back now that legal software has proved it can make lawyers faster and more efficient. The same thing happened with law firms that implemented document management systems for law firms — they certainly aren’t going back to storing important files in computer folders.
The future’s looking good, even with the concerns of job security, and the prospect of having to re-skill employees. The bottom line is that automation will not erase the needs for legal professionals — it’s there only to supplement their skills.