Adapting to a new world

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It’s no surprise that the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) annual survey of law firms for 2019 focused on how the digital revolution continues to disrupt professional services. New technology, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), is being developed every day by forward-thinking enterprises. 

Eight out of ten top firms agree that technology is key

The evolution of technology within cutting edge organisations has a knock-on effect for traditionally conservative organisations, such as law firms, who also need to evolve. Many larger firms are embracing lawtech to drive productivity and innovation, improve efficiency and control cost. According to PWC, eight out of the top ten firms identified technology as the key challenge to growth in the next two to three years. However, barriers to adoption are still widespread in the legal industry. 

Barriers to adoption 

Complexity, scale and cost emerge as key barriers with security concerns topping the list. . However, PWC tells us it’s rare for senior management to take part in cyber risk and crisis management exercises. According to the PWC survey, many law firms just opt out of the advanced technology that’s becoming more common in sectors such as telecom and financial services. 

Avoiding high-tech does not protect client data

Firms are right to be nervous about cybersecurity.   A whopping 100% of the top 100 law firms surveyed by PWC suffered a cybersecurity incident in 2019.  And according to Forrester: “In 2020, ransomware incidents will grow as attackers learn that holding data hostage is a quick path to monetisation.” As aggregators of sensitive client data,, law firms are vulnerable to these attacks and are rightly concerned about cybersecurity. 

Firms that don’t innovate could be left behind

However,  avoiding high tech adoption and cloud-based services does not itself protect client data. The key - not always easy - is to strike a balance between the digital innovation that clients and employees expect and demand, with the cybersecurity necessary from a business, regulatory and ethical perspective. It is obviously vital for law firms to protect their own business and their clients from the loss of personal or sensitive information, not to mention  damage to reputation. But as firms face pressure for increased efficiency, productivity and growth, as well as better outcomes for clients delivered innovatively, law firms who do not embrace technological innovation risk being left behind. 

Both the risk and rewards are compelling, so how do we strike that balance with confidence? 

One way to balance the risks and rewards is to avoid the temptations of disruption.  Disruption is a buzzword of the moment and sometimes seems to be presented as an end in itself. It is easily forgotten that true disruption involves challenging existing working models and the networks which support them. That may not be desirable, particularly where risk mitigation is important.  So, start small, trial with dummy data, and iterate and until you feel confident that systems are secure and workable from all angles

Risk can also be mitigated by ensuring the obvious safeguards are in place: make sure that your suppliers are properly certified, have cybersecurity plans and processes in place which they can describe to you. By taking these steps the benefits of  technology start to become available , saving time, and money, increasing productivity while increasing opportunities to spend more time on the things requiring personal  attention and expertise. 

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Topics in this article: Automation Lawtech survey

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