In an industry where the billable hour used to reign supreme, alternative fee arrangements are quickly becoming commonplace. According to the Legal Services Consumer Panel Tracker Survey 2017, fixed fee arrangements now account for 48 percent of transactions in the legal industry. As the pressure for greater efficiency mounts, firms must come to terms with the industry’s new pricing standard.
However, many UK firms are still struggling to find the right balance between speed and quality. According to a recent survey from Altman Weil, 94 percent of law firm leaders believe that improved practice efficiency will be a permanent trend moving forward, yet only 49 percent say they have significantly changed their approach to legal service delivery.
While many firms across the UK are still operating at status quo, forward-thinking firms in the Nordics have already tapped into technology to create a new way of delivering legal service.
Creating a Platform for Legal Service Delivery
To help drive efficiency, while improving the quality of service, many of the larger Nordics firms are implementing technology to deliver legal services on a subscription-based model. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has become increasingly popular among legal technology providers who have transitioned from a product sales strategy to a recurring subscription-based model. The SaaS model offers a range of benefits for not only the service provider, but also their clients. For example, a subscription model offers providers stable recurring revenue, while providing clients with flexible service agreements that can quickly adapt to their needs and requirements.
Scandinavian law firms are starting to put this model to their own use to deliver legal services to their clients by creating an innovative technology platform for legal service delivery. By combining knowledge management disciplines with workflow automation tools, these innovative firms are developing new ways of delivering legal services.
Automating Document Workflow
Knowledge Management as a discipline has been around for decades, and most larger European law firms already have databases containing useful templates, references, previous advice and bibles. Automated document assembly has also been available for some time as a tool for the largest firms, who can employ dedicated automators to help their lawyers assemble standard documents. However, neither of these tools have been available to mid-sized firms or been accessed directly by law firm clients’ due to their costs, required level of technical knowledge and the complexity of use.
However, that’s now changing with document workflow automation. Advanced technology solutions, such as Sysero, combine knowledge management disciplines such as quality management workflows, help text, drafting notes and regular content reviews with automated document assembly to enable firms to deploy this technology to clients as a front-line service.
The Future of Legal Service Delivery
Document workflow automation technology is paving a new way forward for law firms to deliver innovative service, while maximising their profits. In Northern Europe, it’s quite common for firms to lend lawyers on secondment to larger clients. The lawyer will typically work within the client to build a legal framework of contracts, policies, and guidance. These documents are then left with the client to be used by the client’s staff without a full understanding of the content. Naturally, over time, the content becomes less relevant.
Rather than leaving clients with a collection of static Word documents, the new alternative is to automate the client’s documents on an indexed and searchable portal. Managed by the law firm, each portal is individually styled for each client to mirror their in-house document styles, colours and logos. Automating documents no longer requires techncially complex programming and scripting tools. Instead, firms can use Microsoft Word-based mark-up tools to highlight information that needs to be entered, as well as describing the contract options available to the client.
Automated documents can be authored by lawyers who need only their Microsoft Word skills to add and update content including body text, clauses and styles with the template output producing documents with perfect content, context, clause numbering, references and table of contents. Portals are delivered as branded websites which follow either the law firms’ or their clients’ website including logos, fonts and colours.
The pressure from clients to drive down costs, improve service and enhance transparency isn’t going away anytime soon. To compete in today’s market, firm’s must take steps now to improve efficiency and create service differentiation. A legal portal is the perfect step forward, and can be adapted from technology providers’ existing SaaS platforms to create a legal platform-as-a-service. Through effective branding and marketing, legal portals can not only help increase recurring revenue for firms, but also become revenue generators in their own right.
SummaryWhile many UK firms are still coming to terms with alternative fee arrangements, forward-thinking firms in the Nordics are already using technology to create a new way of delivering legal service.