The wider economy is incorporating a range of technical innovations, and law firms must follow suit if they are to remain efficient and relevant. Legal innovation comes in many forms, and not all of them are technological: but over the course of the pandemic, it’s digital services like videoconferencing that have helped many solicitors across the country to remain operational.
Let us consider a few new ways of doing things, which might be considered by law firms large and small.
Emphasis on data
Legal analytics is a term which encompasses a range of tools designed to make sense of the vast amounts of data that law firms can now collect, thanks to modern technology. This data can be used to inform decisions about the direction of a legal firm as a whole, or on the optimal strategy for a given legal case.
If you are reliant on the intuition and experience of a given lawyer when you are devising strategy, then you’re effectively drawing from a large data pool – that is, the sum total of all the other cases to which that particular professional has been exposed. However, you are also introducing biases, and selection problems. Giving the lawyer access to the insight of an artificial-intelligence assistant might help to refine strategy, and ultimately provide a better chance of success.
Alternative Fee Arrangements
Billable hours are just one way of charging your clients. And they are not a perfect way of doing it. They don’t give the client an upfront picture of the amount that they will be spending, and this in turn tends to dissuade many would-be clients from seeking legal advice in the first place.
There are a number of ways in which billing might be simplified. You might introduce fee caps for a given project, giving clients the confidence that they are not going to spend more than they first intended. Another popular fee arrangement is the no-win, no-fee system, where the firm only charges for cases that ultimately prove successful. This places the onus on the firm to determine which cases are most likely to win out.
While innovations of this sort are not appropriate for every kind of law, their ubiquity today does demonstrate that traditional hourly billing is not the only way of doing things.
There is often a significant disparity between the way that clients actually want to receive information, and the way in which lawyers are prepared to present it. By offering information using a variety of digital channels, law firms are more likely to find an approach that resonates with a given client. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a significant push toward video conferencing, and educated large swathes of the public about the benefits of digital communication. This has also shifted expectations. Clients may now expect law firms to go digital.