The Pandemic Transitioned the Legal Industry Into the Digital Age
Covid-19 forced businesses and social interactions to rely on technology because of social distancing rules exacerbated by fear. The legal industry, being no exception, was forced to embrace technology, shedding unnecessary ritual and processes. The result became a more efficient industry, where client interests trump anachronistic conventions.
"We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature." -- Edmund Burke, British statesman and political philosopher.
Much has changed in the world of commerce since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The legal industry, a notorious stalwart, made a substantial leap, foregoing antiquated ritual-driven practices for technology-driven efficiency.
Technology and focus on the client, rather than wasteful processes, has become the new benchmark for lawyers who understand their business clients' result-oriented expectations. The vast implementation of technology is the driving force in this pandemic paradigm. This modernization isn't a mere facelift, but a restructuring of legal practice, including a major shift from a lawyer-centric to client-centric business dynamic.
The pandemic illuminated the legal industry's lagging position in the technology game and an opportunity for it to do better. A need for improved remote connection was somewhat ubiquitous across the industry, with law practice still largely stuck in its lawyer-centric, labor-intensive ways. In a matter of weeks, however, these bureaucratic traditional models were swapped out for a more nimble, synergetic, and efficient system. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype Meet Now, Webex and many other video teleconferencing platforms became an acceptable alternative to in-person depositions, courtroom testimonies and motion hearings. Although many courts started to revert to pre-pandemic operating protocols as the pandemic rules became more lax, the acceptance of the digital world was anything short of transformational.
Digitally speaking, businesses across the sectors have been forced to embrace the virtual world expeditiously. Where our lives have suddenly turned "online," companies with a lesser tech-first mindset ran the risk of being left behind. So far, this rapid digitalization has come in the form of remote working, learning, and in the legal field, online client meetings and virtual court sessions. Motions are uploaded electronically, and the courts communicate with parties in the same fashion. Social distancing measures have liberated compulsory attendance at courthouses and offices, therefore making room for a more effective delivery of services. After all, the inaccessible, rigid and drawn-out nature of the court room procedures really was at odds with the digital age.
Cloud-based technologies are becoming an increasingly popular tool across law firms. Investing in a serverless architecture is an effective way to streamline processes, save on costs, increase scalability and enhance accessibility. New practice management systems have helped to streamline any routine tasks and centralize seemingly disparate systems, therefore boosting productivity and efficiency. Within this new digital space, menial tasks can now be ticked off faster than ever, allowing more time to be allocated to what really matters: the clients.
Post-Covid law industry has popularized and demistified the practice of law, empowering clients to regularly engage with counsel online. Shifting from an artisanal to a business-first mindset, legal services are now closer aligned with the needs of the modern-day consumer. This digital reboot has made some fundamental improvements to client service: greater delivery speed, expanded access and increased customer satisfaction. Client portals, for example, have been a revolutionary solution to a client's desire to be kept in the loop. Having a platform that enables communication and collaboration between the provider and the consumer is both logical and constructive.
Productization of work
If the industry was previously a guild, it is now a marketplace. Consumers of legal services are now calling the shots and seeking providers that can deliver direct solutions to their legal issues. This buy-sell dynamic has provoked a productization of services, in turn helping to streamline the client's journey and optimize client experience. With the pandemic, companies such as Upcounsel and legalmatch became more prominent. This move towards service commodification has much to do with a surge in online vetting of lawyers and law firms, as well as consumer reviews of their services. Finding the right legal service is no longer about word of mouth. It's about value, ease and delivery, and consumer reviews. Any unsupported claims for "elite legal work" has to be consistent with what their potential client can dig up in the cyberspace.
With improved digitalization comes increased accountability. Quantifiable results in a timely fashion are expected. For any law firm looking to flourish, meeting the client's expectations is non-negotiable, as is being transparent. Lawyers are most likely less concerned about being sued for malpractice over routine disagreements with clients than they are about getting a negative review on sites like Avvo. This consumer empowerment in the legal industry also surged during the pandemic as more and more work from home business people began to engage deeper with the online experience.
In this new tech-savvy legal field, law firms face no choice but to collaborate with others in the supply chain. Operating as a self-contained entity will no longer suffice. Instead, they must employ a cross-firm/department/provider system, which will offer them the suitable resources and expertise needed to achieve the required results.
In the past two years, the conventional practice of law has been forced to re-examine its tradition-driven protocols; its landscape received a fundamental reshaping, and the stalwart industry known to cling to tradition, catapulted into the digital age. Indeed, this pandemic-driven technology transformation has impacted consumers, providers and the judicial system itself.
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