It’s 2020, digital tools of all kinds have penetrated most industries and are automating routine tasks around the globe. Even the traditionally conservative legal profession has been riding a wave of legal tech revolution during the last decade. Yet, law firms and solo practitioners are still stuck with clumsy technologies of the past. Why is that and how do we fix that?
Small law firms matter
If practicing law is a public service, then small law firms and solo lawyers are those on the frontier of it. Unlike big law, which focuses on assisting corporations to handle their venture activities around the globe, small law firms are more down to earth, real-world problem-solvers. A divorce? A fight for a governmental subsidy? Small law firms usually handle the issues of ordinary folks and small businesses. In other words, they are essential to making the law work for everybody.
Technology vs small law?
Given the level of importance of small law, it’s frustrating to see that their legal software “adoption rates still remain low,” according to BAR 2018 report. Some blame the conservative mindset of lawyers and their fear of change. But it seems absurd that people who embraced the Internet and the first digital tools are now suddenly afraid of new tech. The problem may lay in the technology itself, as the emerging tools are just too narrow, complicate, and hard to implement.
The 2019 State of U.S. Small Law Firms report stated that technological complexity and too much time spent on administrative tasks are the top challenges for small law firms face. Both issues seem to be rooted in poorly delivered tech tools and their failure to cover the specific needs of small firms.
So, how can legal tech fix this ongoing issue? Here are three starter steps that we kept in mind while creating Loio.
1. Stop blaming lawyers
Law firms are not the problem here. They are full of work and don’t have spare resources to explore new technologies to jump on the legal tech revolution train. Instead of making the conservatism of legal profession our universal scapegoat, we need to do our best to meet the clients where they currently are and address their problems in the products we are making. People tend to embrace technologies when they can see their value clearly and quickly. If they don’t, you won’t be able to convince the lawyers that they are missing out on an industry-wide transformation.
2. Think small
It’s often the case that legal tech events discuss ultra-narrow nerdy topics and raise questions like “How do we make this even more efficient?” when the majority of the industry has yet to see their most basic tasks automated. While the big law is always searching for ways to optimize their complicated processes, small law firms barely have the opportunity to discover any new tools. It seems there’s a gap between what legal tech offers and what small law firms actually need. So, try to think small and focus on automating the most basic parts of the legal profession. For instance, Loio decided to work on a document review tool because our lawyers experienced these issues firsthand, and saw there was no easily accessible product.
3. Make tech accessible
We are not talking just about the money here. Many advanced legal tech tools require clients to get through exhaustive demo sessions, interviews, and onboarding processes. Instead of helping customers, they seem to create even more trouble. This is not how revolutions are made, as people need to be easily engaged with your product and to realize its benefit in the time span of one browsing session. If they don’t, then you are making your product inaccessible and fail to actually help people who need it most.
Do you agree with our little list or do you think there’s more to the problem? Let us know in the comments section or tag us on social media.