Law Firms in the Digital Age: Understanding the Impact of Tech

It’s safe to say that modern technology, in its many forms, has a profound impact on the world around us. Nearly every industry gets transformed by some manner of technology, be it big data and cloud computing, or mobile and web-based support. Not to mention, innovative tech such as the IoT, AI, VR and AR, and so many others are regularly adopted even in fields you wouldn’t expect to find them.

The wide world of law is no exception, as many of the same technologies taking hold elsewhere are also making an impact with legal professionals. How exactly do these platforms fit in? What are lawyers, paralegals and secretaries now doing to further the industry and their practices through modern tech?

Electronic-Discovery Tools

In addition to reviewing archived and physical legal documents and books for case information and supporting arguments, today’s lawyers and paralegals must also contend with the modern world. That is, the world at large now relies on e-documents and digital communications via text message, online messaging systems, voicemails, emails, social media communications and more.

The growing need to evaluate this digital content has given rise to a host of new legal management and analytical tools. Through this, a method called electronic database discovery allows them to image, manage and preview electronic data and communications.

Modernised Legal Review Systems

Years ago, even smaller law firms would enlist the help of paralegals and interns to pour through various legal documents, books and historical court rulings to find supporting information and aid. This is no longer necessary, as many documents have been scanned and uploaded to digital databases and libraries. Now, legal professionals can turn to more modernised review systems with properly tagged and archived content.

Automation systems and AI are leading the pack when it comes to simplifying this process, both to convert physical documents into digital content, and to help search and discover various information.

Law Firms Technology

Courtroom E-Filing

The industry-wide push to more modern systems has also affected the courtroom, and the way content is both submitted and handled in legal environments. E-filing is a relatively new method in which legal professionals must submit and file documents with the court, of course, it’s all done electronically.

Federal and state courts will take the filings and upload them to online databases. This makes the entire court process much more efficient, as well. Built-in monitors, computer equipment and review tech within the courtroom can easily display this data during a presentation or session.

Corporate-Level Technology

In larger, corporate-level legal departments technology has become just as important. It is now used to file trademarks and patents, track stock holdings and budgets, organise partner and client relations, estimate counsel fees, scour for new work opportunities and even just to organise the daily workload. With the right applications, intellectual property and patent registrations are often completely automated now.

The most crucial form of technology in this environment is a comprehensive and company-wide collaborative system where documents, data and communications can get shared across departments and professionals. Due to the nature of law, however, this must get done in a highly-secure and trustworthy environment. This prevents sensitive data leaks and potential malpractice suits that would come as a result. The latest forms of data encryption, cybersecurity and authentication are used to lock-down data and systems. Using biometrics, for example — such as a fingerprint or retina scan to unlock access to a system — is becoming increasingly common.

Online Payments and e-Billing

The modernisation of payment systems and invoicing is now a standard across the industry. Many law firms established what’s known as e-billing or electronic billing in place of traditional paper invoices. As web-based communications and online portals become the central hub for many modern legal firms, these companies need new ways to take payments from clients and partners. Similar to online banking or services such as Paypal, legal professionals and major firms can now accept digital payments in their many forms.

Law Firms Technology

Online and Mobile Legal Services

According to the American Bar Association, about 90 percent of lawyers and legal professionals use smartphones regularly. It goes beyond communications, email and the calendar use one might expect. They are now conducting video conferences, even with international clients, taking depositions, preparing for trial and courtroom sessions, and work in an official capacity.

This has also sparked the emergence of online legal services, as well as mobile-based providers who offer advice and guidance via proprietary apps. LegalZoom is an excellent example of an online legal firm that has been in operation for some time. It’s worth noting they also have traditional brick-and-mortar offices in the UK.

Electronic Case Management

Case documents, in general, must now get handled in digital form which requires law firms and legal professionals to properly scan, store and review documents through electronic means. Firms must now have access to systems that can archive, track or search, distribute and protect digital documents. The latter is extremely important, because you need a way to prevent tampering or modification on vital documents, and also authenticate their validity to ensure the information presented is accurate.

Welcome to the Modern Age

You’ll notice right away that many of these systems and technologies upgraded age-old practices. Case management and rudimentary forms of e-discovery have long existed in the field, but now they’re adapted to keep up with today’s digital experiences and requirements.

It’s not that innovative technologies and practices aren’t happening as often. It’s more the issue that the legal industry and its constituents must catch up to the rest of the world. For the longest time, law was almost medieval and archaic, relying on physical documents, old practices and outdated processes. As a highly-regulated industry, it’s taken some time to adopt more modern technologies especially in a way that doesn’t compromise information and events.

But that is changing, more and more every day. It will continue to change, as legal firms and service providers move to implement and experiment with new tech, such as artificial intelligence.