Will the Legal Tech Boom Make Traditional Law Firms Obsolete?

The overall consensus is yes and no. While technology is very important in moving today's legal sectors forward, there will will undoubtedly always be a need for a human presence and personal connection with clients.

Here Joanna Toch, CEO and Founder of familylawcafe.co.uk,  delves into the current movement of said legal sectors, the slow uptake in legal technology and the overall sentiment across the professional field.

It is well documented that the High Street is dying when it comes to grocery shopping, eating out, and buying clothes. Last year, one in five people opted to do their Christmas shopping online, rather than brave Oxford Street.  As an ever-higher percentage of transactions across other industries take place online, it stands to reason that legal services will head in the same direction. Our industry is not immune to the unstoppable rise of technology, and those lawyers who do not embrace it risk becoming irrelevant in a just a few years.

A common misconception is that the uptake of legal technology depersonalises an intensely personal experience, leaving clients feeling less like individuals and more like numbers on a spreadsheet. In fact, correctly applied, technology can deliver a uniquely tailored service to clients and, crucially, open up legal services to those unable to afford the time or fees associated with visiting a lawyer.

A common misconception is that the uptake of legal technology depersonalises an intensely personal experience, leaving clients feeling less like individuals and more like numbers on a spreadsheet.

The government has already taken strides in digitalising the criminal justice system, through the HMCTS reform programme, and is now in the process of implementing similar processes in the family system.  If the court service is online, then the lawyers servicing it must be, and lawyers who offer online and technology driven services are set to flourish in the coming months. Those who don’t, won’t, and are ultimately at risk of obsolescence.

Lawyers using new technology must make sure they are at ease with the systems that they are championing, and importantly, stay ahead of the curve as the technology evolves. While some are only just coming to terms with the concept of online document storage and encrypted emails, others are already looking to disrupt the industry by using technology to take away the need for visits to offices – or indeed the requirement for an office at all.

Security is of course paramount, particularly in an industry where sensitive information is included in almost all communications, let alone in stored data.  As the world has changed and hackers have become smarter, so must the legal industry.  Data breaches have become all but commonplace, and the legal profession must adequately protect itself, as well as its clients.  A lawyer who cannot provide their client with assurances that their communications will be safe, secure and confidential, is likely to be side-lined.

It’s not just clients who will benefit. Those lawyers who already use technology in their day-to-day practice are finding that they can work more flexibly and they are not tied to the office.  This has an impact on their mental health and general wellbeing, cutting out travel times and giving them a better work/life balance.

Those lawyers who already use technology in their day-to-day practice are finding that they can work more flexibly and they are not tied to the office.

Our industry has a reputation for being somewhat archaic, but an attribute which was previously considered acceptable and even charming, is rapidly becoming a frustration to clients seeking fast, flexible legal support.  Increasingly, clients are technologically savvy, thrifty and time poor. It is time for lawyers to rise to the challenge and give them what they want.

Generally speaking, people with a legal problem now go online as their first port of call – in fact people go online first for almost every query these days. 6,000 high street shops closed their doors last year alone; one can only imagine how many law firms are destined for the same fate if they don’t take heed of the changing marketplace.

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