Solictors’ practices and barristers’ chambers are continuing their multi-year embrace of new technology as they seek to improve both their level of service to clients and their level of internal efficiency.
Companies whose business it is to provide these technology solutions to legal firms mainly focus on providing solutions in seven key areas – billing and invoicing, accounting, document storage, document automation, electronic discovery, practice management, and AI-assisted legal research.
Comparison services, similar to Compare The Market, are beginning slowly to emerge too however consumer and business take-up of these services when they’re looking to appoint solicitors and barristers still seems to be sluggish.
Competition among legal tech firms to win accounts is worldwide with the two of the biggest British companies in the sector being the Practical Law Company and Lexoo. And given the legal sector’s traditionally high margins, we expect rapid innovation in the provision and functionality of legal technology to continue as venture capital floods the market.
The subject of billing clients for time and services rendered has been contentious since well before the recent technological revolution. The presentation of the time taken on work for a client has always been the start of difficult negotiations in situations where the client is being asked to pay more than they expected to pay.
Further disputes can be caused when the itemisation of a client’s bill contains services for which they did not expect to be charged or for which they think being charged is unreasonable. Poor communication between a legal firm and their client is often the main reason behind why disputes happen in the first place.
Many legal professionals in the sector now believe that the emerging market for billing apps may provide the answer. Clio offers ongoing updates and clarity to both your firm as well as your client and is the current market leader in the sector – it allows “legal firms to track important deadlines, manage cases and documents and bill and collect from clients” and it has attracted very positive reviews since launch.
The market for billing software is already a crowded one in the UK and worldwide however FreshBooks, Time59, CaseFox, SlickPie, TimeSolv, Sage, MyCase, Aderant, LexisNexis, Aderant, Tabs3, Intapp Time, ProLaw, Tikit, Coyote Analytics, SimpleLegal, Rocket Matter, AbacusLaw, Orion, and PerfectLaw on a constant drive to upgrade their service offering to clients.
In their latest report, business analysis firm Stats & Reports predicts “tremendous growth [in this sector] in the coming years."
Anti-hacker back-up software
Ransomware poses one of the biggest cybersecurity threats to legal firms. Ransomware blocks access to your computer or files on your computer unless a ransom sum of money is paid to the organisation which placed the ransomware on your computer. The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack is perhaps the best-known example of ransomware for the general public although legal firms have been increasingly targeted by them of late including worldwide firm DLA Piper (source: FT).
Even the best virus protection can fail and it’s through the failure of virus protection software packages and firewalls that ransomware finds its way onto legal firms’ networks. Many legal firms now are seeking dual layers of protection on their data in addition to the original copies of their files and folders – an offsite copy (on a private cloud) and an onsite local back-up (either on a hard-drive or on a media server). This focus by legal firms on protecting their data is part of a general trend in the legal sector to become among the most cybersecure companies in the UK – a trend which has picked up particular speed since the introduction of GDPR, in our experience.
Back-ups can be made continuously however most firms are happy with two or three back-ups a day. Back-ups should be encrypted and specialist software should also be installed on primary servers which specifically seeks rogue software in the types of folders than ransomware normally tends to hide in. Firms should also keep constant vigilance to locate any unwanted or no-longer-used programs on their servers with a view to deleting them permanently,
Taking these steps means that your firm should be able to recover quickly in the event of a ransomware attack.
Continued growth in electronic disclosure
In the last ten years, the number of legal firms with their own e-disclosure teams has increased to 51% from a previously low base (source: Exterro). In the UK, 8% of firms used e-disclosure software in 2007 rising to 71% in 2017 (source: Computer Weekly).
E-disclosure software not only holds the relevant files (including image files, PDFs, raw data, and hard copies) but, using OCR and AI, it scans the files meaning that a solicitor or barrister can search through volumes of information much quicker than if the documents were on paper.
So useful is it that the worldwide market for e-disclosure services is forecast to grow from £7.7bn to £11.4bn in 2021 (source: All About Law).
Deborah Baron, director of Electronic Discovery Zantaz (an Autonomy Company), told Computer Weekly that "in the next 12 months, we will see UK companies falling prey to legislation if they cannot uncover all electronically-stored information (ESI) potentially relevant to a legal or regulatory matter within a specified timeframe...ESI could soon become the Achilles' heel for organisations that fail to confront this now...UK companies are already recognising this need and are looking at new approaches for proactive information risk management."
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Sprout IT provides high quality legal IT support, cloud & consultancy for the legal industry, 24/7 service, 365 days. Many of the technological changes seen recently in the legal sector will require initial and ongoing compliance audits with GDPR to be used effectively and safely. Sprout IT offers a "Data Protection Officer as a Service" model allowing you to outsource your DPO to one of our experts.
To speak with one of our team about staying compliant with GDPR as you equip your practice or chambers with the latest technology, please call us today on 020 7036 8530 or email us.