Achieving Digital Transformation in Law Firms: It Must Come from the Top
by James Higdon |November 30, 2021
“It’s a golden moment for digital transformation,” said Justin Hectus, Chief Information Officer, Keesal, Young & Logan, in his keynote at ILTACON 2021, the annual legal technology event. Stresses from the global COVID-19 pandemic have spurred many law firms to rethink technology’s role in operations to accelerate change — change that might otherwise have taken a decade.
At VDS we’ve been waiting for this “golden moment” for a long time.
Digital transformation has been a slow, steady drumbeat. Now, we’re beginning to see all that change. The door has opened. Law firms need to use this time to let go of the status quo, embrace progress over perfection, and prioritize technology innovation in the firm’s go-forward strategy.
While the disruptive changes from the pandemic have brought a new willingness among firms to innovate, the question remains: why has the legal industry been so slow to innovate?
Law Inherently Resists Change
Simply put, the legal profession remains firmly rooted in the venerable traditions of old, including mountains of paperwork and traditional business practices that are often burdensome and stultifying.
Just consider the unaltered trial judge’s courtroom apparel as prime example. The symbolic, gown-like black robe has served as standard judicial attire since the early 19th century! No rule says you must abide by this standard of dress, yet very few judges stray from the unspoken norm. The only thing upholding this ritual? Tradition.
While a dated dress code may seemingly pale in comparison to adopting technological infrastructure, the message is identical: Law inherently resists change.
With this emphasis on the institutional value of traditions comes a conservative attitude—and the accompanying resistance to change pervasive in this industry.
While the importance of managing change in business process can’t be understated, many law firms are resistant to embracing new technologies, citing lack of technical knowledge, skills or understanding; problems with organizational handling of change; and financial issues including direct costs and unknown return on investment.
Striking the right balance between adhering to long-standing — and, in many cases, still essential — principles and integrating new technologies can be challenging but doing so should be a top priority for most if not all of today’s law firms.
Innovation must come from the top
While external pressures are driving some change, if firms really want to modernize, disruption must come from within. The firms that are most successful at adopting new ways of doing things are those with leaders that take innovation seriously. Change and innovation must come from the top with leaders that are actively involved—and actively driving it.
While we’ve already mentioned that leadership buy-in is necessary for tech adoption, it’s not just about approving a budget to invest in a tool or program — it’s about fostering a culture that supports the process of adoption and signals its importance to the rest of the organization— and for leaders to do that, they must see it as a worthwhile investment.
So why should legal leaders digitally transform? Here are some benefits to consider:
- Significantly reduce reliance on paper by capturing and digitizing documents as soon as they enter the business.
- Make it easier and faster to move critical information across your law firm by converting paper-based processes to highly automated digital workflows
- Enable remote working by securely giving your staff anywhere, anytime access to documents.
- Reduce paper document storage costs
- Respond to client requests quickly with the degree of personalization and digital experience they receive from other industries.
Innovation can be intimidating for an industry that prides itself on tradition and safety. However, as the world changes and new technologies begin to enter the market, client expectations are changing. Flexibility, accessibility, and personalization are no longer optional for law firms. For those who wish to remain current and competitive, it’s essential. And law firm innovation can get you there.
The good news is you don’t need to implement everything at once. Workplace innovation is an ongoing process. By taking a step-by-step approach to implementing new tech-driven approaches, you can improve everything from new client intake, case file management, and even employee morale.
If you want to implement any of the above techniques into your legal operations, contact our technology experts who will make your legal digital transformation smoother and quicker.