Is technology leading to a dumbing down of the legal profession?
Not, but it will act as an enabler and help technology-savvy firms differentiate themselves from the laggards. This is because technology, if properly used, can help lawyers become more efficient at running their businesses and provide better customer experiences.
A key challenge some lawyers have is getting rid of the view that technology will replace the personal experience they develop with clients. Commoditisation of legal services, which some see as inevitable given recent regulatory changes (e.g. The Legal Services Act in the UK), scares many lawyers who want to maintain their status as providers of high-value services.
What these lawyers don’t realise is that you can use technology to actually maintain high-value services and help develop better client relationships or trust with prospects.
The systemisation and automation of activity as a result of technological advancement means many forward-thinking law firms have started to see how they can minimise the time spent by fee earners on various (mainly, non-billable) activities. It makes more sense for a lawyer to engage in service delivery and spend less time on some process or task that stop them doing so.
Marketing is one clear example of this – the collection of feedback, sharing of content, systemisation of communications and personalisation of experience can all be improved using technology. When leads come in, lawyers can do something as simple as have a multi-step automated communication strategy in place that helps them engage with prospects while some of the more specific details related to their case are considered.
Some of the tasks (e.g. discovery) don’t need armies of lawyers any more. Granted, some people will panic but this will only be the case if law firms don’t find a way of re-deploying their time to other valuable activities that bring in leads.
And when it comes to engaging with prospects and clients, lawyers need to think how IT is used by consumers to find information, search for lawyers or engage in various social media channels. This helps develop better customer experiences, but does require a huge change in mindset in order to be done properly.
The value that lawyers provide once technology has automated certain tasks and made it easier to communicate with people is immense. Technology now helps lawyers focus on their strengths and contribute to lead generation efforts through online and offline marketing.
Sometimes, it helps to stop thinking about the old technology in place and its limitations, but to focus on what customers want and how technology can be used to deliver what they are looking for.