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Closing the technology gap: five signs your law firm is falling behind

Technology today plays a greater role in business success than it has ever done – in the areas of client experience, efficiency, collaboration, cost control, information security and speed of operations, to name only a few. But while some law firms are making strides to keep systems and processes updated for today’s rapidly developing business environment, many still have a way to go. Here are five classic signs that systems and processes at your firm are falling behind.

Your clients are impatient or frustrated
Often, it’s clients that bring a law firm’s outdated practices into the sunlight. Lawyers focused on client service may ignore the pleas from the head of IT, people managers, or operations leads, who have noticed the risks of legacy tech. When clients start complaining though, senior partners start taking notice. Whether it’s struggling to achieve compliance for new bids, the ability to share sensitive data with external sources, or relying on multiple processes for conflict checks – if clients are regularly suggesting more efficient or low-cost solutions that are common practice almost everywhere else, it’s time to make changes.

Your best people keep leaving
Jobs at law firms carry a certain cachet and are relatively secure, but that will only get you so far when it comes to talent acquisition and retention. The best people – whether lawyers or legal professionals – have only so much tolerance for antiquated systems and ways of working. If technology is a persistent barrier to them succeeding or developing in their careers, it’s likely that top performers will look for opportunities elsewhere.

You’re struggling to make the most of freelancers and contractors
Some mid-sized UK law firms have ambitions to expand their ranks through associations with freelancers, taking commercial advantage of the growing pool of non-office-based talent out there. Technological agility and the facility to easily collaborate are essential to the success of such a model. This means systems and information must be accessible (and shareable) to external workers, as well as secure. Many law firms will need to adapt and update their systems for certain expansion plans to succeed.

File sharing habits are circa 2006
If it’s customary for people at your firm to send emails with attachments when working on cases or projects, it’s a symptom that your systems and work processes are outdated. Document management systems such as Microsoft SharePoint are straightforward to install and use, and will immediately increase security, efficiency, speed of work, accuracy and collaboration. The introduction of a new file sharing system is often also an opportune (and low cost) time to review access privileges, which in turn bolsters and modernises your firm’s security practices.

Some outdated piece of technology survives
Whether it’s because of inertia or an unwillingness to invest, it doesn’t look great. For example, inviting clients to talk about deals in emerging tech spaces on communications platforms that have long been superseded. You won’t have to search far to find out which platforms, devices or apps are hampering performance or sapping morale. Ask the fee earners or business support staff and they will be more than glad to tell you!

Closing the gaps
Law firms have made significant investments and efforts to modernise in recent years, but the truth is that tech is moving faster than many of them would like. Also, the gap between what you have, and what you need, is likely to have widened at a considerable pace since the pandemic. From our own work, we can say there are some large gaps to be addressed by management teams in the industry.

Get in touch with Doherty Associates for a full assessment of your business needs and challenges, and advice on how your processes and IT could be updated to make your firm safer, more productive, and more competitive.

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