Advancements in technology have changed every part of our lives, from how we socialize to how we work and even how we obtain information. And the legal industry is no different. Gone are the days of paper-based files and in-person meetings, now replaced with the option for digital signatures and virtual calls.
In fact, there are so many different types of technology catered toward helping legal professionals and their clients that there’s now a dedicated category for advances in legal technology.
Streamlined case management, electronic payment options, and online document storage are just a handful of benefits that legal technology brings to firms. Read on to learn more about the different types of legal technology, potential future advances, and how your firm can take advantage of the full range of benefits.
What is Legal Technology?
Legal technology is a type of technology which delivers legal services and supports the legal industry. It typically refers to software instead of traditional hardware like computers, printers, and scanners, as these are not specific to the legal industry.
Most of this technology is usually designed to help attorneys and firms practice law more efficiently, such as being able to sign documents with e-signatures instead of needing to print and sign everything by hand.
However, there are also different types of legal technology that are designed to help with the administrative side of running a firm that may also be used by individuals who aren’t lawyers. For example, legal accounting software helps accountants keep track of the firm’s finances and cash flow.
What is a Legal Technology professional?
A legal technology professional, or a legal technologist, is an individual who enables firms to use technology to deliver legal services. These individuals may not necessarily be legal professionals or have a background in law, but are knowledgeable enough to help firms identify problem areas and solve them with technology.
Legal technology professionals help with a number of areas, from implementing a practice management system like Clio, to setting up your website, to providing online accounting and bookkeeping services, and more.
At larger firms, legal technology professionals are typically part of an IT team that helps manage all of the hardware and software that the firm’s employees use. But, this may not make sense for smaller law firms. So, depending on the firm size, it may be more practical to outsource a legal technology professional’s responsibilities to a contractor or agency.
How has technology changed the legal profession?
While technology has slowly been displacing outdated processes over the years, the pandemic of 2020 has accelerated the digital transformation of the legal profession. Previously, virtual meetings between legal professionals and their clients were few and far between. As social distancing became prevalent, so did the concept of lawyers interacting with clients via video conferencing.
In fact, Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report found that 79% of clients want the option to work remotely compared to only 23% of those who were open to working remotely with a lawyer in 2018.
Remote meetings weren’t the only preference to change during the pandemic—clients now have higher expectations when it comes to using technology to work with a lawyer, with the same report finding that 40% of consumers would never hire a lawyer who didn’t take debit or credit cards.
Of course, virtual meetings and payment options aren’t the only ways technology has changed the legal profession. From firms choosing to go paperless to having entire law firms go completely virtual, legal technology has fundamentally changed what it means to practice law and be a legal professional.
Why is Legal Technology important?
Legal technology benefits everybody that participates in the legal system—from lawyers, to judges, to clients. Especially when it’s integrated in such a way to support a greater legal operating system.
For lawyers, legal technology is an important part of practicing law more efficiently. Without the ability to store and access documents on the go, a lawyer would need to double back to the office if they found out an important case file was missing after arriving at the courthouse. This scenario could have disastrous consequences, and you can imagine other dreadful situations that would inevitably happen without legal technology.
Virtual conferencing has not only become normalized between lawyers as a client, but also as an effective way for a judge to hold court. In fact, courts have found that conducting proceedings virtually has led to many efficiencies, one example being removing barriers of availability for experts such as detectives, prosecutors, and witnesses to appear in court. It also makes it easier for disadvantaged litigants to appear, raising appearance rates and decreasing failure-to-appear rates.
Lastly, on the client side, legal technology has made finding, evaluating, and hiring a lawyer much easier. Dedicated lawyer directories help clients narrow down their search by providing information on specialities, practice areas, and even lawyers in their area.
All of these advantages overlap. Lawyers that practice more efficiently benefit clients while legal proceedings going virtual benefit all parties involved. Lawyer directories for clients also similarly help lawyers market their law firm.
Legal technology is important to all of these parties and ultimately helps make the legal process, which is known for being quite stressful at times, easier and more efficient.
Final thoughts on Legal Technology
Legal technology comes in all shapes and sizes, just like law firms and their respective practice areas. What works for one legal professional may not work for another. However, it’s likely that if there’s a tool that doesn’t work for you, there’s another tool out there that will serve your firm’s needs.
Legal technology is a rapidly growing area, and for good reason. While technology adoption in the legal industry has accelerated greatly over the last few years and come very far, there is still work that needs to be done. Legal professionals should embrace the usage of technology in their processes and how they practice law in order to benefit themselves, staff, and clients.