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How can legal firms prepare for the future?

15 Nov 2017

The rise of AI and the changing marketplace herald an exciting future for the legal industry. Are you prepared?

The legal market is changing. The rise of technology has raised the profile and importance of the digital economy, producing an ever more complicated legal and regulatory environment and increasing pressure to offer legal services and turn a profit in a competitive market. As a result, it’s never been harder to maintain an edge over competitors. Indeed, with 55% of purchasers reviewing their legal suppliers, and 52% considering buying legal services from non-traditional law firms, it’s clear that legal services need to adapt and look to the future if they want to stay ahead of the curve.

Here’s what you should be thinking about.

Changing Regulations 

Both Brexit and the GDPR have exploded onto the business scene in the last year, and they are both set to have massive implications on the way the UK’s 10,000 law firms operate. Whilst it may be wise to consider opening a satellite office in Ireland or Brussels, in order to make the most of the EU’s Passporting scheme and continue to trade openly and freely within Europe, it is the regulatory nature of the GDPR which requires the most preparation. If law firms want to increase their customer value and develop their reputation as a trusted and transparent company, they should already be thinking about putting some preliminary measures in place before the GDPR comes into effect on 25th May 2018.

The central tenet of the GDPR revolves around giving power back to consumers and increasing transparency in the way that customer data is handled. Customers can now request to see their personal data, and withdraw permission for that data to be handled and analysed; they also need to give their consent for it to be used.

This means that companies are now held accountable for the data they possess. To minimise the chances of data leaks and maintain transparency, therefore, it’s time for legal firms to upgrade the way in which they handle and process data. Invest in data compliance classes for your employees, and make data compliance and protection an overall part of your business strategy. If you want to thrive in a post-GDPR world, you need to make sure that your customers’ data is secure, and know where that data is stored and who has access to it. 

Cyber Security

 Cybersecurity is set to become a massive trend over the coming years. As technology improves, legal attacks on firms have increased, with 26% of large firms experiencing security breaches last year. This number is only likely to increase, and in order to protect your data and your assets it’s almost vital that you upgrade and streamline your systems. Indeed, many law firms are looking to hire coders to improve their security and upgrade existing processes; in an age where online protection is paramount, it’s something everybody should be thinking about.

Changing Customer Demands 

Technology’s ever-increasing capabilities offer both opportunities and threats to the Legal services market. With the advent of the Internet, new legal startups have started to make an appearance in the, previously firm-dominated, traditional legal sector: often set-up by ex-lawyers, these ‘Lawtech’ startups offer customers quick, easy and cheaper access to basic legal services than respected, established legal firms provide. Even accounting firms have started to offer legal services, and use ever-smarter technology to process routine work that would traditionally be delegated to trainees & more junior lawyers in legal firms. 

This points to an ongoing change in customer needs that legal firms need to adapt to. Today, customers have grown to expect more from the people they buy from. In an age where technology is coming to dominate the marketplace, buyers want a comprehensive service tailored to people living in a digital age, fixed fees and a greater transparency from the way in which firms do business.

Given that these are services that many ‘Lawtech’ startups are already providing, now is the time for law firms to follow suit and get smart. Invest time in marketing, raise your profile online and attract customers over the internet, and invest money into bringing your workforce up to scratch: for instance, enrol them in legal courses on Bitcoins, or cryptocurrency, so you can expand your market offering for a new customer base. 

Artificial Intelligence 

Indeed, advanced technology has also paved the way for Artificial Intelligence, and it’s already affecting the legal industry. 

Investing in some basic technological infrastructure is vital if you want to remain competitive in the market. Analyse your existing processes, and then update and automate them so you can be faster, more effective, and more consistent in the way that you provide services to your customers. 

Indeed, simplifying the way in which you do business will allow you to retain your competitive business edge, and one way of doing this is by taking full advantage of AI. Law firms are only just starting to tap into its potential, but AI is paving the way to huge changes within the industry, with experts estimating that some 114,000 jobs could be automated in the next 20 years. 

Able to do a huge range of jobs - everything from analysing big data to uncover patterns and build customer profiles, to automating your marketing - AI will likely make many jobs a lot simpler and quicker for high-level staff. From Linklater’s Verifi program, which can check client names for banks against regulatory registers and process data throughout the night, to programs which are self-learning and can be ‘trained’ to sift through and even draft up contracts in minutes, AI is the future of law. 

With a shorter wait time, and the chance to save money for both customer and firm, it pays to start investing in and examining the viability of AI within the workplace. 

At IDEX, we work hard to keep updated on the changing market so we can provide the best service to our customers and clients, and continue to match the best legal talent to the best job opportunities. Find more insights into the Legal market in our Knowledge Centre, or if  you are looking to hire, you can now send us a brief here. 
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