Legal Sector: The need for digital transformation and an enhanced customer experience (CX)
Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic having a drastic impact across sectors, the legal sector have continued to demonstrate digital innovation to transform their traditional practices in these increasingly demanding times. Below, we discuss the on-going need, possibilities, challenges, and benefits of cloud for legal organisations.
Cloud technology has developed exponentially over the last decade, now offering organisations an abundance of opportunities to meet operational challenges, client, and cost concerns head on. Yet despite its presence, and on-going advancing development, cloud technology had not taken the legal market by storm. This was due to legal firms’ concerns of cybersecurity and data breaches, alongside their natural approach of precedent and risk aversion.
Transformation for Legal Sector organisations is possible (and secure)
The need for Legal Firms and Authorities to Transform
The increase in the need for cloud adoption within the legal sector, whilst accelerated by COVID predates the global pandemic. In fact, Legal Process & Technology Co-Head, Andreas Bong, discusses how since 2005, the number of lawyers have been “constantly increasing” – meaning that resources have “almost doubled” over the past decade, in addition to “total costs rising”.
Andreas Bong further reports that in-house lawyers have faced (and are facing) more challenges and new regulations, whilst being expected to continue to provide advice and maintain their business partnerships. Due to this, many legal organisations have taken it upon themselves to investigate new, innovative, and forward thinking technologies to help transform their services, help mitigate risks and costs, and improve their productivity, efficiencies, and operations.
A KPMG podcast, ‘Reimagining the legal function’, further supports this, discussing how the legal sector has taken a “big step forward in the last [two years*] when it comes to the use of technology in legal departments…”. Legal Operations Transformation Services Co-Head, Phillip Glock, also mentions how today legal organisations are “…looking to their colleagues in other departments that have benefited from some of the improved processes in greater rigor around technology and processes and people and looking for ways that they can improve as well.”
Suggesting an on-going desire to make digitally innovative decisions to transform how organisations operate. This can also be seen (and used as influence) as leading legal firms have begun to make their move to the cloud and have reaped the benefits since doing so.
Leading Law Firms can elevate their CX with cloud adoption
As legal organisations grow and demands increase, the need to evolve is paramount. And the need for evolution was made ever more critical during the pandemic. Simply providing high quality and informed advice is no longer enough to satisfy the needs of clients, and potential customers of legal services. Yet, with thanks to cloud and developing technologies, technology can be leveraged to meet new demands of virtual teams and remain fully equipped to service clients.
As clients become more sophisticated in how they choose services and products, they now expect more. Cloud allows organisations of all sizes – boutique and leading – the opportunity to provide more for their clients, and this is proven by the handful of law firms that have made the move.
As an organisation, when you offer more than just advise and arrange contracts, you develop more than just trust. You develop a service and relationships that can be relied upon for more than just law. Both prior to, and during the global pandemic, leading law firms embarked on digitally transformative journeys – developing new capabilities, increasing their agility, innovation, and automation of processes.
The ultimate goal: deepen client relationships and engagement by simplifying client journeys with innovative technologies and systems. Whilst the journey to cloud would be one that is completely bespoke to an organisation, we refer to Shaping Cloud’s collaboration with leading law firm Irwin Mitchell.
Irwin Mitchell’s planned journey included:
- Automating workflows to ensure operational efficiency
- Locating and joining up data to generate useful insights and enable a more seamless experience for clients
- Using the best of AI and ML to innovate and deepen client relationships
- Simplifying the digital services available to support agility and responsiveness to the business.
With the support of cloud technology specialist experts, Irwin Mitchell are now both fully informed to progress with immediate and longer term plans to transform through adoption of digital solutions. There too are many benefits to be reaped through the adoption of cloud. The benefits reaped by Irwin Mitchell themselves included financial gain through reduced annual and capital costs, improved services through increased agility and scalability, assured service availability, simplified administration, faster response to business needs and mitigated risks.
It is therefore clear – cloud-based software and applications offer great advantages for case management, client relationships, as well as with collaboration with immediate associates and also at a global scale. Most importantly, cloud allows organisations to stay ready and be ready for anything that may come its way.
Challenges Legal Authorities face when choosing cloud
Whilst there have certainly been many successful migrations for firms within the legal sector, for many the change has not been easy. When it comes to technology, many legal firms are traditionally conservative. After all, on-premises data centres worked perfectly well, and firms were in full functional operation – so why would any changes need to be made?
It is simple: in our technologically advanced reality, amidst the direct effects of COVID, the traditionalist approach has become harder to justify.
Let’s look prior to the pandemic
Gaining insights from over 700 legal professionals across the U.S. and European countries (including the U.K.), Wolters Kluwer conducted an independent survey assessing the resilience and a readiness of firms within the legal sector.
The survey revealed that most legal firms, “driven by client expectations”, were already acknowledging the urgency to adapt to, and cultivate innovative solutions – with an astounding 76% of surveyor’s believing that legal technology was of increasing importance to meeting both the changes across the industry, and the on-going changes and expectations of their clients.
However, despite the acknowledgement, challenges quickly revealed themselves:
- Less than one third of the surveyor’s feel as though their organisation is prepared to “keep pace” with legal market changes
- Change management and leader resistance was revealed as the “biggest barrier” to implementing change
- As little as 28% of respondents feel as though they are prepared for legal technology, and
- Only 31% claim to be prepared to meet the changes and expectations of their clients and leaders
Ultimately, what the report revealed was how unprepared, or “ready” respondents felt in tackling any of the legal sector challenges and changes.
Now, let’s fast forward post-COVID.
The two main challenges that the legal sector faced was:
- Technical challenges (magnifying pre-COVID concerns)
- Behavioural challenges
Remote working and the technical challenges
The newly found norm of remote working presented a high variety of challenges for those within the legal sector. Not only had it significantly magnified the sector’s un-readiness predating the pandemic. It too spurred the adoption of cloud. As business and legal work as “supporting functions”, the two must work in the same way. Meaning that where businesses had to make fast decisions, legal firms had to match this – consistently providing high-quality, proactive, and effective advice (that continuously remained compliant with legislations and newly implemented regulations).
Now, whilst some firms had spent efforts supporting remote and flexible working – predating COVID – investing time, money, and resources to ensure employees could work from home. This meant that the move would simply be to “scale”, encompassing the entirety of the organisation. This will not have been the case for all, where in a significantly short and unprecedented space of time, firms would have had to both adapt to and utilise resources, without gradually phased implementation, or trailing, to get their employees working from home.
Working from home, employees needed to access emails, information, applications, and resources on-demand. This was not a possibility with everything being based on-premises. This meant that the sector face(d) challenges to change the traditional ways of office-based working, to digitally based. To adequately support firms’ personal business functions as well as their clients, the legal sector need(ed) to now implement innovative technological tools that are not only efficient and fast but could quickly analyse trends.
As a result, the biggest challenge legal firms face(d) during this global transition, was transforming solely on-premises solutions to digitally accessible solutions. Whilst also incorporating and utilising new and innovative solutions of digitally advanced technology tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
The three silos: files, emails, and applications
Previously utilised Microsoft Exchange servers would naturally be migrated to Exchange Online. Whilst on paper, the migration appears “simple” it is not. Migrating business critical, decades old emails is both a delicate matter and time-consuming. The main issue that legal firms will have faced is many older server-based apps do not work well with cloud-based resources. Existing apps would have to be replaced by cloud equivalents, which can be a timely and tedious process – but an absolute necessity when working remotely.
Fortunately for legal firms, cloud-based applications for the legal sector have become “mainstream” within recent years. Making the migration across to the cloud considerably more seamless, as opposed to working from the ground up. The real issue lies in the vast variety of tools available for any one firm as well as firms typically being disaggregated. The issue lies in finding which tools work for an organisation, based on its requirements, needs, and goals, and how these all work with each other.
The benefits of cloud computing for the Legal Sector
As we are aware, many firms operating within the legal sector are faced with a handful of challenges. More specifically, this includes security (due to legislations and regulations), increasing productivity and improving efficiencies, and more recently, ensuring business continuity. Given the nature of the sector, particular challenges are more pressing with an increased desire to find the correct solution(s) to appease these issues accurately, effectively, and efficiently. Through cloud computing technologies, legal organisations can not only tackle on-going issues, but further enable themselves. Allowing themselves to streamline their operations, and as a result, improve scalability, offer flexibility and agility, and even cut costs and save money.
However, these benefits and the advantages to be reaped from cloud computing can be achieved only when done properly. When done properly, there is an abundance of benefits to be exploited including cultural change, user and customer experience, security, and efficiency across the organisation, on various levels.
To reap the benefits of cultural change, stakeholders will need to have an accepting attitude towards change. This means that firms will need to firstly establish a technology-embracing environment. This would therefore entail specifically articulating the benefits it will bring to all stakeholders – not just IT or executives, but the organisation. Whilst cloud technology offers the ability to mitigate costs, improve productivity and efficiency, legal firms can also promote convenience to clients, as well as transparency, whilst improving their employee’s quality of life benefits also. Law firms should aim to develop a plan that prioritises technologies that demonstrates the need for change – meeting organisational and operational pain points, and improving the quality of life for lawyers.
Once the culture of an organisation shifts to be more technologically accepting, true benefits of cloud can be experienced and exploited. As a result of this shift in acceptance and willingness to embrace change, future solutions and developments will be welcome, allowing the sector to remain “up-to-date” and on-trend, whilst actively and continuously meeting the demands of clients, politics, and more recently, the economy.
Customer experience (CX)
In our digital world, organisations operating through legacy systems will continue to miss out on opportunities to build lasting relations and expand their reach. Users and customers today seek immediate access to services, information and/or products, on-demand and constantly. Cloud computing can help organisations meet these demands, and so much more. Cloud technology and tools can bring benefits to clients, users, and customers too. Benefits that include brand awareness and engagement, builds authority and trust, and most importantly, boosts satisfaction. Ultimately, boosting organisational growth and reputation.
Below we discuss four ways cloud-based tools can improve customer experience.
- On demand access
- Comprehensive and integrated services
- Customised (and personalised) experiences
- Enhanced reliability and trust
On demand access
Customers today want to be able to access information, support, services, and products from anywhere, at any time with little to no inconveniences. With cloud-based services, customers can experience just this. Customers can communicate for help and/or support, access the full ranges of a legal firm’s services, and shop, from any device, at any location, at any time. Today, customers no longer must wait until operating hours to shop or access services. Previously, customers were left to leave messages and emails, oftentimes having to send follow ups in hopes of receiving a response for their queries. This method is no longer feasible in today’s environment – it is considered “outdated”, and customers are likely to venture elsewhere that meets (and exceeds) their expectations.
Cloud-based technology, and therefore cloud-based tools allow exactly that: on-demand access.
Comprehensive and integrated services
Through cloud-based technology and tools, legal organisations make it possible for customers to gain access to their services constantly, without the need to connect with other various providers and leave the site. Through innovative and improved customer interfaces, users can manage their services conveniently, from a single point of entry. With regards to users of financial and accounting services, this provides an opportunity to improve how they and their employees and users perform. Allowing them to access data and perform their tasks at their convenience – from wherever and whenever the need arises.
Due to the constant availability of data, the cloud makes it possible to both personalise and customise user experience(s) (UX). Through the analysation of users search histories and points of contact with the organisation, cloud-based tools are capable of and provide the opportunity to not only create, but send personalised tips, offers and other related content, or where necessary, configure user experiences. As a result, users and customers alike can benefit from improved experiences through personalised services – through eliminating any hurdles that may arise by previously complex web layouts, designs, and more.
Enhanced reliability and trust
Another key feature to improved customer experience is enhanced reliability and trust. Using cloud tools, organisations can provide customers a variety of ways to contact and stay engaged with the organisation. Such tools, as a result, can be a key contributor towards building reputations for both trustworthiness and reliability.
How? Organisations can then provide more prompt services through fast responses to customer contact, quicker resolution to queries, concerns, and problems. Plus, through providing the choice and ability to easily access all products and services can keep customers returning and attract new potential customers too.
Cloud computing today, more notably, its security, safety, and compliance, is proving to be “on par”, if not better, than traditional in-house IT security. In fact, the discussion of data being more secure on-premises, as opposed to the in cloud has been dissipated. This can be supported by the string of on-premises data breaches. Cloud technology has proven to be far more capable, providing high levels of security. Legal organisations deal with a significant amount of personal data. Therefore, it is crucial that the correct processes and security is put in place.
Cloud-based platforms today often have a variety of features in place that consistently and actively work to protect the data of their users. This can include threat intelligence, so that your CSP can see, identity, and repel any current or future threats and respond accordingly. Encryption is another feature used in protect data assets.
Cloud service providers (CSPs) identity and deploy the appropriate and necessary solutions. Compliance measures, such as Data Protection, GDPR, ISO 27001 are dealt with by the CSPs digital and technical experts – meaning that this is an area your organisation and IT department no longer must worry about. This allows legal organisations to benefit from both agility and low costs, whilst continuing to maintain the security of their data assets via their new, cloud-based environment.
A key tip: look for SOC II accredited solutions. This means the tools, or “solution(s)” have been tested against strict confidentiality, privacy, and processing integrity, further promoting and ensuring the security of both your organisations data assets, as well as your clients and customers.
Conclusion: choose the right tools
Whilst the pandemic certainly presented an urgency in cloud-adoption, many legal firms may have found themselves tempted to invest without any real consideration. This, as a result, can cause real damage to an organisation. Legal organisations must find what works for them and proceed carefully when migrating. Organisations must look to invest in tools that address both the needs and the pain points of the organisation and stakeholders too.
Once a legal organisation migrates fully to the cloud, with all emails, files, and applications, they then can truly benefit from the advantages of cloud-based platforms and vendors – experiencing improved productivity and efficiency, reductions in cost; as well as other benefits, including flexibility, scalability, agility, improved customer experience, and so much more. For legal organisations seeking digital transformation but unsure how or where to start, quality service providers are available. Through utilising cloud and digital experts to support digital transformation, appropriate and secure solutions can be both identified and deployed meeting the specific requirements and needs, whilst further enabling legal firms to benefit from agility, low costs and remain secure and compliant.