Price well, build a reputation, and make a profit is a mantra that has served many a successful practice. But if customer loyalty is swayed by the immediacy of online services and, other sectors prove small changes can drive 300% growth in three years, double sales enquiries, and unlock 2,000 additional hours each year; is it time to take stock? Though in its early years, the current pandemic has ignited interest in LegalTech, despite a perception that very few of the 592 law firms in Wales possess the ‘change to gain’ attitude other traditional industries have mastered
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Even prior to COVID-19, a report written for the Welsh Government suggested the profession is taking notice of digital. It simply doesn’t know where to start. “Legal technology is a big issue for us. We know the world is changing, but we don’t know where it’s going to end up.” It is a thought echoed by others, “I think we’re a little lost. Everyone’s looking around and saying, what do we need? We're all being encouraged to go down the LegalTech route, but without much guidance”. But most palpable, is the fear, “What if we plan something and it goes wrong?”
LegalTech is a label that sounds good, but it is fluid. Yes, Admiral, CJCH Solicitors and NewLaw have led on some innovations, but what can your average law practice employing ten or less solicitors out of a single office in Wales do, especially in rural areas? Superfast Business Wales, a government funded service suggests something as simple as having an updated website and using social media can help rural businesses to raise awareness and increase customer footfall just like The Flower Meadow in Llandysul did. But a few clients from the legal profession have gone much further.
Time saved on file management, searching for information or creating printed documents, is spent on giving legal advice to clients
When Michael Feakes saw how legal disputes over wills and probate, employment and property litigation harried clients, he decided to move his instruction away from a corporate office to somewhere they were more comfortable. Knowing digital would allow him to be fully mobile, as well as minimise the volume of paper he lugged around, and save on costs, he decided visiting them at work or home would be a win for him and a win for his clients.
“People can often feel daunted in a corporate office and worry about fitting meetings in around childcare or other daily needs.”
He uses an online case management system (Leap) to store their details, manage their files, and automate documents; and Office 365 for content creation, storage and communication. “When I visit clients now, I’m able to open my laptop and have everything I need at my fingertips: contact details, case details, client documents and more. It isn’t a novel concept but when it comes to running a business, digital is a very efficient in keeping the business as lean and as flexible as possible and means it’s in tune with how big a part technology plays in people’s lives.” Read the full story.
It is good to see a new generation of solicitors using digital to improve the customer experience and to increase their own productivity. Especially, as clients no longer have the same unwavering loyalty to individual firms. Whilst as an industry we may be competing against other law professionals, we’re operating in an environment where clients are used to shopping around for the best price and the best customer support.
“Practice managers should focus on productivity and junior partners need to use digital to secure their future before senior partners retire”
If Wales is to become a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship there is a clear role for Practice Managers to focus on delivering precedent jobs for junior solicitors to replicate, and for the junior partners to use social media and digital to secure their future before senior partners retire and take their reputation with them.
Up and coming lawyers are already being primed for this new world. At undergraduate level, Swansea University law students can now study ‘coding for lawyers’ modules, and postgraduates can gain an LLM in LegalTech and an MA in Cyber Crime and Terrorism. Modules include subjects such as AI and law, big data and data mining, and blockchain, or cyberspace, online propaganda and radicalisation. But with COVID-19 changing the World there isn’t time to wait for the next generation. There are practices out there who are ahead of the curve.
“We’re more responsive and save hundreds of pounds per case”
NLS Solicitors is at the gritty end of the legal profession. And it needs to combine hard-headed business with the reality of tough scenarios in their specialist area, immigration. Its clients are in highly emotive situations, where responsiveness makes all the difference. With three offices across Wales and 11 staff handling multiple caseloads remotely, it is important clients don’t feel lost in a system. So, the firm turned to digital to act in real time and power the business, saving hundreds of pounds per case.
“With 11 staff handling multiple caseloads remotely, it is important clients don’t feel lost in a system”
Since adopting digital, NLS has grown into 4 offices and 17 staff. Using the cloud keeps client cases moving and costs low, which has been crucial for the firm. Skype allows them to contact clients and initiate cases immediately, and a case management system, Osprey is accessible from any office. Its storage facility complies with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which keeps all data secure while removing duplication, so caseworkers are informed and respond quickly. Read the full story.
With more change coming we need technology, disruptive to an industry as it is, to help us navigate and ease us out of lockdown. Not everyone can practice law, but much of what we do can be automated so unless we want technology companies nipping at our heels, we need to adapt. We, the Law Society and Legal Network Wales are hosting online events with the help of Superfast Business Wales to demystify online technology, so book now!