The Tech Savvy Lawyer – Web Technologies And Legal Firms

June 2nd, 2020 by admin Leave a reply »

The Legal Industry & Information Technology

Like all other industries, the legal industry is not insulated from the tremendous changes in information technology over the past decade, and the challenges and opportunities it presents. If anything, the changes have more bearing on law firms & departments because information management is at the core of what they do – consulting with clients, colleagues or experts; increasing compliance & regulation demands, wading through a constantly expanding sea of legislation and case law; managing outsourcing partners; keeping abreast with latest developments; or managing a mountain of matter files.

Recent Trends

Perhaps the most significant change in the legal services industry the decline of “relationship lawyering”.

Recent times have seen increased competition, & changes in underlying market structure. There has been a continuing trend of decline of “relationship lawyering”. Traditionally strong relationships between law firms and corporates are eroding, with more companies opting for in-house legal departments, or “shopping around” for the best deal. Another significant trend is the increasing convergence of legal markets, where competition is as likely to come from a firm in another state or overseas as from a local firm. These & other developments are exerting greater pressures on legal firms to be more efficient, an it is imperative that attorneys spend their time analyzing information, rather than organizing or managing it.

Drivers of Technology Adoption by Legal Firms

Possibilities of Technology – The primary driver of greater use of information technology by legal firms is developments in technology itself. New technologies & greater bandwidths allow great possibilities in the arenas of information management, productivity and remote collaboration. Information can be moved over the internet with greater security. And unlike yesteryear, law firms can access these technologies without hefty costs and the need to set up specialized IT departments.

In 2004, Forrester Research Inc estimated that some 39,000 legal jobs will have moved offshore by the end of 2008.

Outsourcing/Offhsoring – Legal firms are now increasingly open to legal process outsourcing of tasks they traditionally held close – research, transcription, coding and even legal research and the drafting of legal documents. It is commonplace to see a NY based law firm, subletting research work to a team of professional lawyers & paralegals in Bangalore, India. This enables firms to majorly cut down costs & concentrate on core legal functions. But it also necessitates a greater need to communicate, collaborate & monitor the functioning of outsourcing vendors hundreds or thousands of miles away. Security is also an issue, since performance of the services often requires access to regulated consumer data or other sensitive data.

In 2004, almost 60% of lawyers worked at multi-office firms and over 10% of lawyers work at firms with ten or more offices.

Geographic Diversification – As mentioned before, there is a distinct movement towards multiple office firms, with offices spread both nationally and globally. US based companies are now serving many foreign clients, or serving foreign interests of domestic clients. There was a significant presence of international clients in even the smallest law firms of 1 to 20 lawyers. There has also been a spate of global mergers and acquisitions of law firms in the new millennia. All this necessitates a greater need for communication, collaboration and information exchange between branches.

Regulatory Compliance – Since the Sarbanes Oxley Act came into effect, records management has become an essential requirement. Organizations are required by law to retain certain documents for predefined periods. Also, the amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect on December 1, 2006, and apply to any firm involved in litigation in the U.S. Federal Court system. The amendments mandate that companies be prepared for electronic discovery. Firms have to drastically alter the way they preserve, retrieve and produce electronic data.

Competition is coming both from firms spread across the nation & the globe, as well as consultants & advisors who were traditionally not considered part of the “legal industry”

Competition – Because of the death of relationship lawyering, and “one stop shopping” by clients, firms cannot afford to be complacent anymore. Moreover, competition is as likely to come from the opposite end of the country or globe, as from local companies. Competition is also coming from other quarters, consultants and advisors who offer services that were previously the purview of lawyers. In this arena of intense competition, lawyers have to double up as “rainmakers” ; networkers (legal business development) in addition to traditional roles.

IT Needs of the Legal Industry

Centralized Document Storage – The legal profession generates a tremendous amount of digital information in the form of case files, contracts, court filings, exhibits, evidence, briefs, agreements, bills, notes, records and other office activity such as email. This information is the firm’s collective knowledge & learning which sets it apart from competition and needs to be retrieved again and again. Compliance also requires certain documents to be stored & retrievable for extended periods of time. Attorneys across different offices need to access and collaborate on this information.

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