Making sure your firm is set up for success in the highly competitive legal industry will be at the top of everyone’s New Years’ resolutions. But how do you achieve that? The foundation is ensuring your legal technology stack is fit for purpose.
To compete in today’s world, law firms must provide exceptional and prompt client service delivery, which needs all the right information available in the right place, at the right time. Yet too often, associates and lawyers are left searching across separate systems for subject matter expertise, associated content, and case research. This time all mounts up as unbillable, which not only affects partners’ and the firm’s profitability, it also affects your ability to keep up with competition.
Systemic reliance on inefficient processes not only reduces productivity – adding to associates’ already long hours and stress – but manual processes will take money out of the firm’s pockets. However, information is a law firm’s lifeblood, and managing data effectively and efficiently is crucial to compete.
The numbers speak for themselves; a new survey suggests that many law firms are losing millions in revenue in billable work. More than 40% of fee-earners spent over 35% of their time on non-billable duties, while 70% spent at least one-fifth of their time on work they could simply never charge to a client. Some of this non-productive time could, in fact, be captured if they were able to abandon some routine tasks in favour of automation. Yet, recent research from the University of Oxford found only 50% of UK firms are using AI technology.
Reducing the time spent on routine data management tasks is key, and AI is one technology that can help. But let’s think about the bigger picture: practice managers and legal IT specialists should embrace better data management, enterprise search and insights technology as a whole to see the real benefit. This will help improve the regular knowledge management activities that lawyers and associates have to undertake, while also increasing revenue. Here are four key ways it can help.
- Find content and subject matter experts
Demonstrating a track record of success and expertise is critical for supporting existing clients and securing new ones. Enterprise search technology can rapidly surface relevant content along with subject matter experts, and relationship insights, that go far beyond biographies. Lawyers and their staff do not need to memorise query formats or language—they just need to enter any free formatted text into a search window and hit enter. Millions of documents can be scanned in seconds, cross-referencing content such as document authors and case documents.
2. Seek out relevant information faster
To be able to respond faster to prospective and current clients, law firms need to be able to quickly gather information from all sorts of different knowledge and information sources.
Enterprise search technology can locate relevant knowledge in seconds from across an organisation’s disparate data stores, even sources users may not always think of – including the document management system, practice and case management systems, the HR system or lawyer profiles and biographies, file shares, intranets, portals and more.
A metadata approach is the foundation on which search applications can be automated, and relevant matter information can be identified in moments from across millions of records, with AI-powered search that literally crawls and indexes information stored across a firm’s disparate data sources and repositories.
3. Classify data for better data and information governance
Law firms are notorious for storing legacy information. But as more documents are generated, disorganised data makes it more difficult for lawyers to find relevant information when needed. Enterprise search technology can free up more time by identifying and classifying both legacy and new information from external sources, using classification and AI-assisted filing to maintain accuracy of information across a firm’s systems.
Another way technology can free up more time for billable client work is automating document profiling. Filing documents and incoming mail daily according to content type is an unnecessarily time-consuming task. By utilising meta-data, created through manual tasks like document profiling, naming and tagging, can be expedited with the programme suggesting inputs. This also makes the classification of documents clearer, which will allow for more effective enterprise search in the future and also aid cross team collaboration.
4. Quicker case decisions with visualisations
However, to make the results usable to lawyers, they need to be easily digestible otherwise more time is sucked into comprehending all that information. With visualisation tools to automatically transform data into insights, quicker case decision making is possible. Abstract information and the relationships between pieces of information can be visualised to allow legal practitioners to access new insights at a glance.
For example, when pitching to a client, practice areas can put together the right team of experts quickly and visually. By searching for which work has been done for a client in the past, knowledge managers overseeing pricing strategies can see the full list of relevant lawyers and their matters within the firm, as well as the authored documents they have created. With knowledge graph capabilities, users can tie documents back to the experts (authors) along with relevant locations and practice areas.
Looking ahead to 2022, in order to stay competitive in the market, now is an important time to review your technology stack and embrace the potential of enterprise search and insights technology based on metadata, AI and machine learning. This will help free up your team to really do the work that excites them, which adds value and is billable, ultimately future proofing your firm for the New Year and beyond.