Digitisation
of the legal sector
A review of the current situation

For some time now, the digitization of the legal market has been the subject of heated discussions between all participants.

Everyone involved?

Not quite, a not inconsiderable proportion (some even think the majority) of professionals, both in law firms and in the legal departments of companies, are firmly convinced that this topic certainly (no longer) concerns them and/or that it is mainly a hype that will soon be over anyway.
This attitude is not surprising, technical innovations have always had a hard time in this economic sector and if they are finally used, one would like to use these technologies as long as possible (keyword: fax, which still has to be used in Germany for many communications e.g. between courts and lawyers ).

Those who take a more positive “approach” to this topic have usually more or less painfully “been allowed” to state that new technologies could indeed open up interesting possibilities, but for their concrete legal activities they “always lack something” in order to be used “meaningfully” in the law firm / legal department. (Except for a use in the context of a marketing activity to show the client or the board: “Hey, we are totally hip and can do LegalTech”)

The topic is cut off with it, back to the agenda and watch the disappearance of this "fad" calmly?

This can be done, but it will not work, since the digitization of legal advice is by no means just a temporary trend, but rather will significantly change the way in which the legal profession will exercise its profession in the future within the framework of law firms or in legal departments.

However, this transformation will not happen overnight, but will take place gradually over a period of several years, so that in my opinion we should not speak of disruptive developments, but rather of evolution.

Nevertheless, in many of the previous fields of legal activity, “not one stone will remain on the other”.

Is the end of the lawyer now near?

On the contrary. Even though the topic is (still) viewed rather sceptically in many places and approached with little enthusiasm, in my opinion the use of increasingly powerful software technology in the legal advisory environment opens up considerably more opportunities than risks for all parties involved.

The use of digital services and products makes it possible for attorneys to provide advice and support to their clients.

  • to better focus on the concrete problems of the client/customer
  • to provide them faster and more error-free and
  • to be relieved of work that only represents standardized routine work for which little or no legal know-how is required.

However, those who are of the opinion that the aforementioned possibilities of ” digitalized legal advice ” can “simply” be implemented by the purchase / licensing of the product “xyz”, are unfortunately greatly mistaken.

Just as general digitalization always leads to changes in habits (just think of travel bookings online or in a travel agency), the focus of the law firm or legal department on (new) software-supported consulting approaches requires more than just a decision on licensing special programs.

Before software and services can be used, the existing “business model” of the law firm/legal department, including the currently “lived” internal processes and communication with the client, must first be subjected to a critical and detailed review.

Why!

Reason 1
Many of the previous activity processes have their origin and design in the technical possibilities of analog telephone, file register, loose-leaf collections and above all the “data carrier” paper. If they now digitize these processes unchanged, it would be similar to converting a VW Beatle engine to the engine electronics of a Porsche 911.

Reason 2
Before investing a lot of money in the digitization of a law firm, one should critically question the previous business model – also with regard to the increasing competition from legal providers on the Internet.

  • What can/will you use to earn money with legal advice in the future?
  • How can one differentiate oneself from the growing competition?
  • What can one perhaps adopt from their business model?

After this “spring cleaning” regarding organization and business plan, the evaluation of the implementation of a digitization of suitable work processes can be started.

Maybe wait and see after all?

Just ask the CEOs of Blackberry or Nokia whether waiting until everyone else (better) does is a real alternative….

Seriously. Of course you don’t need to fall into blind activism now, but the “preliminary work” just mentioned should be carefully considered and carried out in order to develop a resilient strategy for the adjustments at the organizational and business level. Experience has shown that this usually takes much longer than expected .

If you should need support with this topic, then I would be pleased to help you with my consulting services. Perhaps you will also find hints, ideas and inspirations in my blog posts.

This post is also available in: deDeutsch (German)