A couple of weeks ago, Tallan attended its first ALM LegalWeek conference in New York City. With over 4,000 attorneys, c-suite executives, marketing and business development staff, exhibitors, and vendors registered, our team was looking forward to networking and the educational panels we had the opportunity to attend.
The event was divided into three separate ‘conferences,’ Legal CIO, Legal Tech, and Legal Business Strategy. We divided and conquered, and after day 1, one thing became clear: LegalTech has become mainstream. Firms are looking for out-of-the-box products and platforms to enhance processes, time-keep for ease of billing, foster eDiscovery, and generally optimize operations. There are vendors for nearly every ‘LegalTech’ you could imagine or need.
For the most part, they are internal. Save time by digitizing records, but if a firm cannot bill that time saved (not that attorneys perform administrative tasks anyway), then how is it adding value to the services the firm can offer? This is where the opportunity lies.
In one panel, an audience member posed a question to the General Counsel of a large media corporation. To paraphrase, the question suggested that another economic downturn is on the horizon, and the individual asked how she (the GC) would respond to the potential for outside counsel or firms to remove services, but keep costs the same, as a way for them to remain profitable. Her reply was that value had to be added somewhere else, point-blank. There is the opportunity again. Law firms have aligned with technology advances internally but have not yet widely considered how to lean on technology to add value for their clients.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Legal Tech. If the industry remains steadfast in its resistance to transformation, and the economy does take another turn – how will firms hold onto their client loyalties? And, will it really take something as big as an economic shift to prove that firms should be open to considering new ways to innovate for their clients?
It should be noted, however, that while the industry largely remains innovation-adverse, generalizations cannot be made. The Financial Times publishes an annual list of most innovative firms. On this list are many organizations that are looking to the future, to secure revenue beyond the billable hour. Jackson Lewis and Akerman have been recognized for their use of tech advancement through analytics and data to enhance the experience their clients have.
Experience, ease, and convenience are things we expect in the ‘always on’ world we live in, so why should expectations be any different from the world in which we work? It will be interesting to see how the legal industry evolves, especially as other highly-regulated fields like the financial services industry, have begun to embrace the cloud and innovation.