Digital transformation for lawyers & what it means for you

Digital transformation in law means embracing technology in all aspects of the legal space, service delivery, processes, workflows, contracts, customer engagement and case management.

It’s about people, not technology: delivering better outcomes for our clients and giving you and your lawyers more meaning in legal work.

There are never enough lawyers or hours in the day to meet the needs of our clients and calls for greater efficiency have never been stronger. Digitization is here. But it doesn’t mean AI is taking your job. It’s better.

Before we rush off to the R&D department and look for these magic products, let’s talk about what digitization means, why the transformation is inevitable (and already happening) and how to look at how to integrate technology into your legal work.

Because we all want to be happier lawyers, right?

Digitization in law – what is it?

Let me tell you a story

It’s Monday morning.

You’re fresh, in good spirits waiting to get your hands on the latest innovation from the inventors  (or, as we say in Finland: Gyro Gearloose) in your R&D department. You can’t wait to explore legal research around it and prepare for the strategy meeting with the Board. This is why you enjoy being a lawyer: doing strategic challenging work as an integral part of the business.

You open your computer and your inbox, and your heart sinks. As usual, countless requests for sales agreement templates pour in, due that morning.

Sighing, you give up hopes of investigating more interesting and value-adding work and begin gathering data and completing the templates.

Does this sound familiar to you? It does for too many lawyers.

  • We type
  • We print
  • We scan
  • We manage different versions of the same document
  • We collect signatures
  • We write our billable hours
  • We edit, update and customize the same contracts over and over. And we do it over and over again.

 We sacrifice hours on repetitive soul-sapping tasks instead of creating change that brings real meaning to you and your customers.

So you squeeze the little remaining time into the challenging and meaningful work and continue longing for the day you can open the strategy box. There’s no time for that now.

The good news?

Technology removes the repetition

No, the robots aren’t coming, but technology is.

We’ve all risen to the challenges of the pandemic, causing rapid change in the way we work. Now teams are embracing technology to streamline operations and challenge the old ways of the law.

I’m watching teams using tech to analyze data and refine their service offerings by calculating costs, offering value-based billing based on analysis and what clients value in their experience with lawyers.

Project managers who manage digital data analysis are already part of the system in progressive firms. Legal ops is a completely new area of expertise and legal work in inhouse teams.                  

But it’s big-ticket stuff, and I’m focusing on the tech you have at your disposal now.

Basic digital tools include

  • Email and calendar systems
  • Tools for online meetings
  • Cloud storage for your documents and data
  • Digital invoicing and payments
  • MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Google Workspaces

They may not be sexy, but they drive efficiency.

More advanced digital tools include

  • Document management systems
  • eSignature services
  • Case management systems to keep up with the assignments and track your work
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to support sales and customer engagement

Next level, more mature digital tools include

  • Historical data analysis of the firm to predict future outcomes, give better advice and offer value-based pricing
  • Automating tasks and workflows using tools
  • Online collaboration tools
  • Tools allowing customers to interact with you digitally

Was the list underwhelming? It’s the tip of the iceberg.

I recommend starting with what you have and exhaust the opportunities to understand what is possible.

For example, if you are already using MS Office software or Google Workspace, why not test online versions for collaboration?

What’s the right legal tech for you – questions to consider

Internal use or client-facing?

One way to start evaluating which digital tools are for you is how they will work: internally or customer-facing.

I find it’s easiest to start with digital experiments internally, within your team or across different teams.

When you’re ready, you can use the tools intentionally with your customers for collaboration or case management or even let your customers use the tools themselves to share data or see progress updates. Self-serve, even?

Productivity vs winning more business?

Some teams look for digital as a way for lawyers to work smarter together by automating processes and reducing delivery time.

For others, it’s more sales, more customers and how to scale your existing business. Your services are available 24/7 at lower rates because they’re not reliant on you.

Think about your customer. Would you prefer to spend hundreds of dollars on one hour’s manual work or solve a problem using technology for a fraction of the price? Not to mention how you can reclaim your time.

Off-the-shelf vs your legal tech app

Do you daydream about designing and building your legal tech app? I do.

 Please, please, please before you do, take a look at the huge variety of apps that already exist.

 Better yet, start with the tech you already have.

  • Have you already bought something that your team is not using or that you could use more efficiently?

We all love shiny, sparkly things but exhaust the tools you have before you reach for the company credit card. Especially if you are just starting to validate a need, it’s better to start with simple and crappy even.

If you conclude that you do want to build your app, don’t do it alone. Get a diverse team to work on it together. And don’t forget design!

How does digitization benefit you?

Save time & money

Manual work means your expertise and services are available only when you are, limited by the number of billable hours in your working day. You cannot duplicate yourself or scale, and you’re missing the valuable opportunities around you.

New business

Got a hankering to improve legal life? The opportunities for designing and offering new digital legal services are everywhere.

Think about your clients, their complaints, frustrations and wishes. Or consider internal issues within your business. What would you change? You don’t need to build the space shuttle because small technology changes in how we operate can make an incredible difference (I’ve put an example below).

New business models

Replace time-consuming manual work with automation and offer services for different pricing, like value-based or fixed price or using other alternative fee arrangements.

Happy customers

Customers get more value because they pay for the results instead of your time. In return, you’re forging relationships and loyalty.

Happy lawyers

No longer slaves to time, lawyers can use their time for more meaningful work, while automation takes care of the repetitious stuff.

How to start your digital systems

Digital transformation is about people

Technology is never about technology. It’s about people. Making the tech is often the easiest part, but it’s worthless if no one uses it.

Convincing people to use it is challenging because no one likes change, especially in the legal industry where “robot” paranoia exists.

Designers involve people in the process and learn about the users and their needs. Then include them in the requirements for the new technology and let them test and give feedback on the proposed solutions. It breaks down barriers, gets buy-in and creates tech advocates.

1-2-3 of getting started

1 Start with the real need

  • Don’t get technology for its own sake. Use it to solve a real problem.
  • What is the most burning problem in your work you would like to fix? Think about your internal processes and your customer’s experience (Tip: use a client journey map to get a deep understanding).

2. Design first

  • Use the design process for the transformation. It means empathising with the intended users (teammates or customers), gathering data to understand the problem you are trying to solve with the technology, then validating the tool with prototyping and testing with your users.
  • Make sure you nail the problem, don’t jump into building a solution before you’ve done this.
  • Remember that you’re not designing for yourself: you’re designing for your user.
  • Make low tech prototypes to validate the concept

3. Implement and literate – or scrap the idea

  • Before making huge investments, lower the odds by validating the need and your solution. Remember the rules of prototyping: early, ugly and often.

4. Implement and iterate – or scrap the idea

  • Have patience and resilience to see through the entire process and make decisions to implement, including a project plan on how and when to roll out.
  • If the testing has shown that there’s no reason to move forward with the solution, then make a conscious decision to close the project. Too many projects fade away without any closure.

Digitization in action

One of the easy access tools to digitize your legal work is a document automation tool: Contract Mill.

Contract Mill allows you to create clever digital versions of your contract templates and allows your colleagues or customers to build custom contracts by themselves by answering questions.

Click to see the tool in action:

Where to now?

I’ve been involved in several legal tech projects and designed legal services when I started my firm. At the Lawyers Design School, we can tailor specific workshops for your team in digitization, giving you practical, concrete steps to take away and implement in your workplace.

 Robots aren’t going to take your job, but technology is changing the way lawyers work fantastically.

If you’re thinking about learning about legal tech and digitization but not sure when to start, let me ask you a question. If not now, when?

Contact me to get your team onboard. It will change your life.

Grab a virtual coffee with me and let’s figure out the next step!

Image of Hannele Korhonen Legal Designer

Who’s writing?

Hi, I’m Hannele. I am an ex-corporate lawyer, legal designer, pioneer in legal tech, serial entrepreneur and blogger.  I am the founder and teacher in Lawyer’s Design School.

I’m here to teach you new skills and mindset of legal design to thrive in the future of law.

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