The world’s business landscape is changing, and organizations from around the globe (or across the map, if you’re a flat-earther—I aim for inclusion) are participating in a race to the top. It’s today’s arms race or our new race to the moon. The goals of those historic races were apparent; however, there was an underlying factor driving them. It was lurking in the background like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. That factor is technology.
Technology is a driving force behind change, and it’s a race for who can adapt and innovate the fastest. In the US, law firms are losing this race, but are attempting to claw their way back up the technological food chain. I read recently that all companies are tech companies simply by the way we conduct business—cell phones, email, productivity apps, video conferencing—we are surrounded by technology. This, in turn, is changing how law firms must manage and conduct litigation matters in the US.
Why apply collaboration technology to litigation?
Simply put, technology is already altering the litigation landscape. Not only are we dealing with an obscene amount of data, but technology is also empowering clients to have more visibility and access into their matters. Implementing a cloud-based collaboration platform can help law firms increase their revenue, attract new clients, retain current clients and even help attract better candidates for employment.
Internal and external collaboration increases the efficiency and effectiveness of law firms, while simultaneously providing that window into litigation matters that clients are demanding.
I believe this shift is inevitable, and the onus of accepting and adapting to the change is on the attorneys themselves. In my experience, attorneys, for some reason, take pride in being over-utilized—a biggest book competition, if you will; but until recently, being efficient wasn’t a real priority. The only important question was, ‘Did the attorney provide satisfactory legal services?’. That no longer can be the status quo. Clients don’t want to pay for the unnecessary billables and have started paying close attention to legal spend.
The 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market issued by The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center bluntly states that law firms have been losing market share. Corporate law departments are increasing internal spend while 95% of them are taking steps to reduce their spend for external counsel. So efficiency, accuracy and visibility matter more now than ever. This is where collaboration technology can deliver huge benefits to litigation matters. Here’s how:
Innovation with technology can help litigation teams become more efficient. Period.
Think about it—if there is a large litigation, documents are everywhere. They live on unsecured desktops, emails, file-share services and far too often still on paper. But now you need to bring a new attorney to the trial team and have to wait for them to get up to speed. Are they going to be able to safely access everything they need to be effective? Can they do it quickly? Probably not.
If the documents are hosted in a central location, the onboarding process is drastically accelerated simply by virtue of everything being available to the whole team to access. Unfortunately, not every file-sharing and collaboration tool is the same and due to the sensitive nature of the client information, an enterprise-grade, secure cloud-based platform is absolutely essential. With a platform that protects your data, your team can safely share knowledge, collaboratively draft documents and review the latest meeting and team notes, no matter where they’re physically located.
When I think about the hours I’ve spent throughout my career tracking down or waiting to receive documents before collaboration platforms were deployed, it absolutely confounds me that some law firms still operate this way. Collaboration technology gives litigators tools to be more productive with their time, which can help keep cost down (especially in an Alternative Fee Arrangement situation).
The legal industry is very unforgiving—the slightest misstep could mean the loss of someone’s business or livelihood. It should be no surprise to us that errors do not reflect positively on the bottom line.
Collaboration improves accuracy across the team. If documents and updates are siloed in email, it’s easy to see how mistakes can be made; one stakeholder is left off the distribution list, a crucial change is made offline, document versions are updated for one team member, but not everyone, and so on.
When work in progress is visible to all team members, mistakes are more easily caught and corrected. Documents can be reviewed, edited and updated in real time, reducing the risk of distributing information that is out of date. Cloud-based collaboration tools also offer quick visibility to document history and simplify review processes to ensure that all the right people have seen the work product before it’s distributed.
Improved client engagement and visibility
When your client asks for an update on their matter, progress on the timeline or a report on spend, how do you deliver and how long does it take? You must set out to source huge data sets from multiple systems, tidy up the info, compile it and create a project update. By the time you’re done and it’s delivered, is it still accurate?
As corporate legal departments continue to look for ways to bring more work in-house, it’s in the best interest of law firms to consistently demonstrate their value and expertise. It reminds me of middle school math class—you can’t just deliver a finished product, you have to show your work.
One great example is Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who use their collaboration platform to enhance client experience and offer value-added services. Firms that welcome clients to view and participate in their processes are more likely to have happy, trusting clients. Effective collaboration platforms allow your client more input and control over their matter. Built-in visual dashboards, workflow tracking and document analysis can help clients understand how their matter is progressing at a glance.
Technology can help create opportunities to build relationships and trust with current clients, as well as showing prospective clients that you are committed to efficiency and transparency that will ultimately serve their needs and deliver value to their litigation process.
Technology is here to stay. A new crop of young litigators that are comfortable and familiar with cloud-based technology will start to take center stage in the legal industry. Starting now can help attract these technology-minded individuals to your firm, which can also help your bottom line. Implementing a cloud-based collaboration system today can help your firm be more efficient tomorrow.