TECHNOLOGY AND THE LSA
22 Mar, 2012
Technology can Help High Street Law Firms get the Edge over ABS
High street and traditional law firms who have been operating without major competition for many years will soon come up against Alternative Business Structure law firms. The new wave of ‘Tesco Law’ means that traditional lawyers ought to ensure they have the edge over newfound competitors.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has established that 125 applications have been received from law firms and non-legal companies hoping to convert to an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) in its first few weeks.
Fixed fees, better communication with clients and smarter use of technology are some of the traits anticipated to become commonplace for ABS law firms. These factors contribute to a more linear manner of legal advice – all of which could overshadow traditional law firms.
ABS firms will have large marketing budgets and business expertise that pose unprecedented benefits to the legal system in a way that is more suitable to the consumer’s needs. Their fixed rates are anticipated to be the deciding factor amid the economic downturn and legal aid reform, due to be passed under parliament later this year.
All of these factors indicate that law firms will be looking to cut costs. Cloud computing, electronic documents and other technologies can all help to reduce overheads, whilst improving productivity. Money saved from administration and storage can be immersed back in to a company to expand on marketing, PR and customer relations; in a bid to increase client base and compete against ABS firms.
Distributing court bundles is not only time consuming and unreliable, it is a costly process that costs the average law firm approximately £37,000 in printing, stationery, courier and staffing costs. This is why Electronic Document Transfer has been developed. It is cloud-based software which has been designed for childcare cases in family courts. However, the software can be used by anyone wanting to keep their documents private under the data protection act.
EDT is a highly encrypted platform for sending and retrieving sensitive electronic documents. It even has a higher security certificate than many UK online banking systems. Sensitive documents can only be retrieved by the intended recipient – helping to avoid expensive fines by the ICO for misplaced sensitive files, which have totalled £1 million across several local authorities since April last year.
Furthermore, the statutory requirement for firms to keep documentation is six years. This incurs huge storage and archiving overheads which is unnecessary considering the available technologies. EDT offers archiving solutions in the form of electronically stored information (ESI) which can be stored with minimal space requirements. This effectively saves firms on expensive storage space and allows staff to concentrate on more urgent matters.
David Atkinson, an expert who has worked with childcare cases for 15 years said “EDT helps users to work collaboratively, with all documents in one central space, allowing information to flow effectively. The solicitors, courts and local authorities we work with are actively using the software and have already reported savings in both time and overheads.”
Time is considered a priority in a legal professional’s busy schedule, so reducing unnecessary tasks is important for firms looking for a prominent stance over their new ABS competitors.