Notable trends in law firm technology going into 2019 include some points of special interest to North Carolina’s small to medium-sized law firms. Trends across both technology and tech-enabled choices of work modes and activities will affect the future of the practice of law throughout the United States.
From enhanced digital systems for intake of new clients to new approaches in time and billing accounting software, trends across the legal services sector indicate that a veritable digital transformation of the legal services industry is underway.
Current and Future Trends in Technology for Law Firms
Roll-outs from Clio and Lexicata and other such heavy-hitters in legal tech innovation are leading the way forward in an ever-more digitally-driven world of law practice. Some of the more exciting 2018-2019 trends in legal IT promise to further increase efficiency, accuracy, speed, and altogether significantly enhance the legal client experience.
Some key 2018 trends that have carried on and that have built momentum going into next year include:
- Online Legal Communities — An appealing prospect-networking resource for lawyers, online communities provide increasingly valuable resources for information and support to high-end prospective client companies.
- Online and Phone-System Helper Bots — Helpful bots now assist website visitors and phone callers through basic processes of gathering and giving essential information to move forward in communications with attorneys and law firm staff.
- AI and ML — (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) From marketing data, to case management processes, computation will facilitate decision-making with increasing effectiveness.
- More Sophisticated Cyber-Security Strategies — Innovations in network security may include applications of revolutionary concepts, including potential development around blockchain technology.
- Various Cloud Technologies — From CRM cloud to data storage, cloud resources are becoming ever-more prominent components of state-of-the-art legal operations that are on their way to becoming digitally mature organizations.
- Marketing and Document Automation — Updated automation software applications increase speed and efficiency in every facet of the modern enterprise, facilitating setup of broad-scale scheduled distributions with just a few clicks.
- Law Firm Management Strategies for ESI — Streamlined approaches for meeting requirements and objectives for the discovery of Electronically Stored Information items help lawyers increase efficiency in smoother comprehensive collection of ESI.
- New Billing Alternatives — The next evolution of time and billing accounting software renders old methodologies obsolete.
- New Intake Software — Upgrades in programs for processing information from new prospective clients and professional legal associates take outer-office law firm administration to a new level.
- Legal CRM Technologies — Borrowing a concept from the business world, modern law firms are employing customer relationship management technologies to organize and prompt communications and case activity histories with prospective, current and former clients.
- Expanded Legal Case and Law Firm Management Platforms — Clio has recently announced plans to soon roll out an upgraded integrated law firm processes platform, built by its new subsidiary, the premier legal technology developer Lexicata.
- More Feature-Rich Legal Software Applications — Demand for legal case process software applications that enable even further digitalization of legal processes drives the development of more powerful applications for integration into existing and forthcoming platforms.
- Answering Services — The personal engagement offered by live operators is increasingly preferred by attorneys who want to go the extra distance to create a client-centric law practice.
Trends in Legal Practice Methodologies (Tech-Adjacent)
In addition to the wide array of current and expected upcoming tech trends in U.S. legal practice, a number of interesting developments are taking place in the very ways attorneys think about the practice of law. New trends are emerging in the ways attorneys choose to manage cases, run their law offices, and even in the ways, they opt to structure their practice of law within the larger framework of their lives.
Some of the impactful shifts in the direction of defining career lifestyles in legal practice include:
- Social Media Marketing and Prospect Engagement — Social media is no longer new, but new ways that law firms are now employing it include using social platforms to attract and engage prospective clients.
- Adaptations in Multi-Generational Workforce Management — As in all other economic sectors, legal practice increasingly meets today’s challenges of differential motivations, work-mode preferences and professional cultures that must be cross-generationally inclusive.
- Virtual Law Firms — For lawyers inclined to forgo the brick and mortar model of a legal practice, remote legal services are predicted to appeal to greater and greater numbers of clients in need of an attorney on a vast variety of matters.
- Green Initiatives — Motivated by environmental concerns, as the overwhelming majority of millennials are, younger lawyers look to ensure that their law firms contribute their part in eco-conscious operations of office suites, buildings, and work-related transportation.
- Focus on Improvement of Work/Life Balance for Attorneys — In keeping with the millennial mode of the newest generation of legal practitioners, today’s lawyers are more carefully evaluating their career choices in terms of overall quality of life for themselves and their families than their Baby Boomer exemplars may have opted to do.
Reflecting on the new era of the digitalized law practice and the benefits of this transformation to legal clients, law firm staff and attorneys in 2019 and beyond, a new systemic order for law firms emerges.
From the perspective of some Boomers on the digital transformation, they see happening in their own and other legal practices, technology in law firms may appear all very foreign and futuristic indeed.
But millennials are more likely to view the shift as a necessary and timely alignment with the way their lives otherwise operate away from the office—in their high-tech homes and vehicles, travel and shopping modes, and just everything else they do, little of which is not in some way digitally enabled or facilitated.
There is the even more forward vantage point—that of the early digital native Gen Z lawyers, just now settling into their offices as Associate Partners. The current legal tech trends we now see gaining momentum can be predicted to become standard industry practice early in their law careers.
We can’t speculate on the kinds of atmospheric changes that Gen Z will assert onto the industry, by the time they come into their next-level Junior Partnerships a few years from now. But we can at least safely enough predict that, going into the next decade, new legal tech innovations will be more seamlessly integrated into what will then be much more broadly digitalized work modes.
Beyond 2018-2019 trends, the fully-technologized law office operations of the near future may realize increased dependence on cloud resources and on growth and recruiting opportunities in big data, as well as greener, more paper-free operations.
For More Information
Parkway Tech is a leading IT company serving law firms in the United States. For more information on growing trends in legal practice, contact Parkway Tech at (336) 310-9888 anytime. We’re here to answer all of your technology questions. Also, ask for a free legal IT systems assessment for your law firm.