Legal technology is an interesting concept in that it didn’t grow out of a desire for change; It has instead developed out of necessity to stay relevant within an industry well-known to emphasize maintaining more traditional business processes. As essential as lawyers and law firms are to people and businesses, an insistent need for the legal sector to increase their technological competency became clear over the years.
Security has predominantly been a significant concern within the legal community - especially with the use of technology. With the protection and maintenance of client data being such a high priority, many law firms have been hesitant to adopt the usage of many software and tool options available to them; however, by implementing necessary security precautions, such as hiring IT professionals and using secure cloud services, data compliance can be better ensured.
Technology as a whole has come a long way in its efforts to improve business practices in all different types of industries. Software and applications have been developed to cover tasks almost from A to Z, and businesses have enjoyed constant improvements and adaptations to the processes they already use. The legal industry, however, has required technology developments specific to their needs and the sensitive data that’s handled - this is where legal technology comes in.
Legal tech primarily encompasses the use of technology to handle various legal processes and daily tasks. When law firms take advantage of these technological developments specific to their industry needs, it allows them to remain competitive within their field and encourage essential growth. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most-used forms of legal technology and how law firms and their clients are benefiting from its use and implementation with daily tasks.
Timekeeping and Billing Software
Because much of legal work is tracked by the minute and by the hour, timekeeping is a vital process for law firms to ensure accurate billing. Traditionally, a lot of effort had to be made in timekeeping; Actions like maintaining timesheets, reconciling time spent, and then generating invoices, could take hours, even days. With the development of timekeeping and billing applications and software, lawyers and law firms have been able to streamline their processes and significantly reduce the time spent performing this essential function. Time can now be tracked automatically from anywhere, and with billing software integration, client invoicing efforts have also been streamlined.
Word Processing and eDiscovery
eDiscovery is the vital process of producing, collecting, and identifying electronically stored information (ESI) for use in client defenses and claims. ESI can include items such as voicemails, audio files, video files, emails, websites, databases, documents, and more. Because the collection of ESI can result in a lot of data (and a lot of work), the development of eDiscovery and word processing tools and software has proved very useful to the legal community, as opposed to performing this function manually. Through the use of eDiscovery software, lawyers can improve data compilation processes, searching, organization, tagging, redaction, and more - resulting in a lot of valuable time saved. eDiscovery developments have also made the process of sharing vital information between lawyers and clients quicker and more straightforward.
Accounting is essential within a law firm to ensure that incoming and outgoing cash flow processes are handled efficiently. Through the development of law firm accounting software technology, accounting has been optimized and streamlined; This helps to maximize profit efforts and better control spending. Legal industry accounting software can help with bookkeeping, mileage tracking, bill payment, tax preparation, payroll, profit reporting, statement reconciliation, and more. Not only does legal tech advancements in accounting save time for busy law firms, but it can also help maximize profits by allowing for faster and more accurate invoicing and collections. Tax preparation and payment processes have also seen considerable improvement with advancements in legal technology available to lawyers and law firms.
One of the most vital functions of a law firm is the storage and protection of data. When dealing with large amounts of documents and data regularly, there’s a higher chance of loss or theft happening - and when it does, law firms must have a data backup plan. Otherwise, without backing up important and sensitive data, cases and legal activities can be severely delayed and negatively impacted. Tech developments with data backup have helped law firms by allowing them to digitally store duplicate copies of paper files and safely store duplicate copies of electronic data in case of loss or theft.
Having the ability to store sensitive data and access it from anywhere safely is important for law firms. Data storage cloud services are becoming an essential tool for law firms as a safer alternative to other electronic storage options; DVD’s, external hard drives, flash drives, and local computer storage are more vulnerable due to their higher chances of becoming victim to theft, loss, or damage. While it’s never guaranteed that data loss won’t be experienced through a dedicated cloud storage service, there’s usually less of a chance due to the service being better prepared and equipped for such an event.
Developments in legal tech have allowed law firm infrastructures to run more smoothly and efficiently. Processes that would typically take much longer have seen reductions in time spent and significant increases in efficiency; All of this allows for much higher employee productivity. The areas within practice management that have seen benefits from legal technology include client and contact management, case management, task management, email communications, conflict checks, calendaring, document assembly and management, and much more.
While the hesitance of law firms to use legal technology is understandable, the industry is seeing an increase in its use. Software and cloud service companies place focus on maximizing security and efficiency with legal technology advancements. When used responsibly and with attention to security and data compliance being made, lawyers and law firms can see exponential growth in both client bases and profits.