Digital disruption is bringing industries across the globe into the 21st century. The legal sector isn’t immune to this digital transformation. More than half of lawyers across Europe and the U.S. indicated that their organization’s technology investment will increase over the next three years, according to a Future Ready Lawyer report by Wolters Kluwer. And with COVID-19 taking the world by storm, the transition to the cloud will only be expedited.
Facing mounting caseloads and shorter deadlines, law firms recognize the need to operate more efficiently. Firms are investing in technology to work faster and smarter with an aim toward improving client service and increasing profitability. They are moving away from outdated on-premise software and processes to technologies like cloud-based practice management platforms to manage caseloads and ensure better client experience.
More employees are working from home each day, needing to be able to access their records and maintain productivity away from the office. Task management and matter plans are proving to be more important than ever so employees know exactly what they are responsible for, and clients know what to expect and when.
The sudden switch to remote work caused by COVID-19 has made it even more obvious that firms need a 21st-century technology makeover to remain competitive, accelerate growth and increase profitability. To achieve this, they are leveraging practice management technology to increase productivity, improve security, streamline operations, and enhance the client experience, all while working remotely.
In the era of the mobile workforce – which is expected to reach 1.87 billion workers globally by 2022 – firms are turning to cloud-based law firm software for anywhere, anytime access to data. In a survey by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) of 537 law firms, representing 116,000 attorneys, cloud technology was ranked as the number one technology trend they believe will create significant change in the legal technology profession. The survey also found that 72% of respondents are increasing their adoption of cloud-based technology.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend was already projected to pick up steam in 2020. But once business returns to normal, we’ll likely see an unprecedented acceleration of cloud technology adoption as more and more firms look to leverage the technology to work remotely, increase the security of their client data, lower costs, increase productivity, and boost client satisfaction.
Cloud-based practice management platforms allow lawyers to securely access data from any device while allowing more than one attorney to work on a case at a time without impacting security. Given that clients expect to be kept updated on case developments as they happen, lawyers must have anywhere, anytime access to the information that the cloud provides to ensure maximum productivity.
Updating to cloud-based practice management can also help protect firms from data breaches which can negatively impact productivity, reputation and client trust. A report entitled "The Impact of Data Breaches on Reputation & Share Value" reveals that 65% of data breach victims surveyed lost trust in the breached organization, and that 85% of them will likely tell others. The ability of cloud technology to safeguard large quantities of administrative, financial and personal case information is driving increased adoption of more secure cloud technology. This is no surprise considering the average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million, a cost that includes loss of productivity. Gartner predicted that businesses that are on the cloud will experience 60% fewer security incidents than those that are using more traditional on-premise solutions.
Making the move to cloud computing platforms provides firms with significant security advantages including:
- Support by a large team of experts who make maintaining a secure IT environment their business
- Multiple layers of authentication to minimize unauthorized access.
- Cloud isolation from individual devices (e.g., computers, phones and tablets) used by firm employees to keep the firm’s files and data secure if one or more of these devices become infected with malware
- Comprehensive backup and recovery plans to prevent the loss of files and data in the event of a cyberattack or a physical disaster
However, as law firms transform their operations with cloud-based technology, they should understand that these solutions are only as secure as protection measures offered by their provider. Before selecting an enterprise cloud platform provider, firms should look for the following key components in a cloud provider’s security model including:
- Multifactor authentication: This involves additional authentication methods to supplement the username/password, such as a physical token, a password card, a digital certificate, biometry or SMS password.
- Access management policy: Does the cloud provider offer your law firm the ability to set access rights for each user so that employees, contractors or clients can only access information relevant to their roles?
- Log management: Can every user who logs into the system and every document viewed be tracked, with the ability to provide this information upon request?
- Data backup and recovery: A good cloud provider should offer a robust recovery plan that will allow the firm to get up and running again with minimum downtime.
- Vulnerability analysis: Does the provider conduct routine vulnerability analyses from a credible third party to ensure the security of the system?
- Security standards compliance: Is the service compliant with the standards required for the firm’s business and area of practice (e.g. HIPAA)?
- Data encryption: Does the service encrypt data in transit and at rest to make it impossible for hackers to decipher, further protecting it from security risks?
Law firms run on technology that streamline processes and reduce inefficiencies. Managing partners are increasingly recognizing the importance of integrating technology into their operations to enhance efficiency. According to an Altman Weil 2019 Law Firms in Transition Survey, law firm leaders agree almost unanimously (96%) that a focus on improved practice efficiency is a permanent trend in the profession.
One of the biggest challenges facing law firms that don’t use management software is a disordered workflow. Haphazard workflows not only limit the capabilities of lawyers but also stagnate firm growth. Stuck spending extra time on low-value tasks or unknowingly duplicating efforts, lawyers and paralegals can’t work to their fullest potential without proper structure in place. Practice management technology is helping law firms better track and manage cases, reduce intake time, and streamline and automate processes for employees. This software can also provide firms with increased visibility into how the firm is performing through dashboards that allow for around-the-clock reporting of key performance indicators.
Implementing practice management software that automates processes–like pre-populated tasks, reminders, and deadlines for matters–not only saves attorneys time and money, it also decreases errors. An integrated platform can provide a more accurate understanding of firm productivity, helping identify the firm’s most efficient intake agents, and providing insight on which attorneys are obtaining the most in fees. The technology also provides visibility on where employees are struggling and which areas of the business need greater attention and training.
When evaluating practice management solutions, firms should look for features best suited to their practice type and consider as to whether or not a cloud-based platform integrates seamlessly with the firm’s communication, finance, e-signature and other tools.
Law firms are also investing in technology to transform the delivery of client services. In fact, a majority of respondents (60%) in the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey indicated that their firms have a budget for technology and plan to increase this budget.
Practice management software is one of the technologies transforming the way firms deliver client services to improve the client experience. With practice management software, law firms can more effectively meet and exceed 21st-century client expectations for better, faster service. This software can eliminate client frustration with issues such as spotty communication, unclear timetables, or unmet expectations. The results are better communication and collaboration, allowing lawyers to build more successful relationships with clients.
Practice management technology can facilitate client communication through survey tools, secure client portals, and integrated email and text messaging. Administrative tasks like these take attorneys and paralegals away from time that could be spent focusing on case strategy and clients. Automating these processes with cloud-based practice management solutions can help firms boost productivity, improve operational efficiency and enhance client experience.
The legal landscape is evolving. The challenge for law firms in this environment is to innovate and adapt. Firms are rising to the challenge, using the power of technology to increase productivity, streamline operations and enhance client satisfaction.