The digital transformation is kicking into high gear in almost every industry, including the legal profession. Today, technological innovation is proving to be a key driver for success and tools like Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, analytics, business intelligence, and Natural Language Processing are helping law firms and legal departments of all sizes increase productivity, boost efficiency, and more effectively collaborate with clients.
However, introducing new technology into a law firm creates its own set of challenges and several key steps must be considered before embarking on an ambitious project. The following five steps will help any law firm improve its chances of success when embarking upon a digital transformation.
Devise a Plan
First and foremost, a solid plan is needed. Technology implementations should be treated just like any other large-scale and important project. A detailed project plan lays out the project’s objectives, identifies key stakeholders, defines roles, lays outs responsibilities, and lists goals that need to be created. This will serve as a blueprint for how the project will start, how it will proceed during the actual implementation, and how success should be defined. The current needs of the practice will have to be kept in mind as work will still need to go on as normal but a properly laid out plan filled with definite key performance indicators (KPIs) will make the transition to the new system or systems as seamless as possible.
Although new digital technology will be more than a simple augmentation of the old, radical changes can be built upon the solid foundation of old. Although new technology very often takes advantage of cloud technology, migrating to the cloud or add hybrid cloud elements can ease the relocation process.
Select the Right Tools
To ensure full adoption of the new technology, it’s important to include the principals involved at the very beginning to learn how technology was used in the past and what is expected in the future. The lawyers and their support staff should be surveyed early in the process to get them excited about the new software that will be available to them.
At this stage, it’s important to decide on the tools that will be used. Data integration, analytics, AI, business intelligence, marketing, and social media tools can all come together to form a holistic solution that works together but implementing them all at once might be overwhelming. Get the data in order, then build business intelligence dashboards that surface this data, then add a marketing suite, before introducing any analytics into the process. Analytics, especially AI, should be left to the very end of the process. Analytics is the most complex part of any implementation and models will only work properly if the data flowing through them is cleansed, trustable, and administered correctly.
Employ Iterative Development
The Japanese have a concept known as Kaizen — continuous incremental improvement — and it is an idea to keep in mind when implementing a digital transformation. Pilot groups should be selected to help identify potential use cases for the technology as well as layout any areas of concern. As the technology solution is developed, all lawyers, legal assistants, and staff can be constantly surveyed for their input and feedback. Although quick wins are helpful, an iterative development approach can build a strong foundation that helps the entire team remain focused on the end goal.
To help push adoption, it’s also important to build excitement throughout the launch, and development. Quick wins should be celebrated throughout the company. An internal marketing and communications plan will keep lawyers and staff engaged. Meetings with vendors to preview new technology products and services should include as many people as possible because no matter how skilled an IT department is, an individual department will always understand their needs and requirements best. Once the project has been successfully developed, tested, and marketed throughout the company, it’s time for launch.
Establish Ongoing Engagement
During the fourth step, it’s important to keep the momentum going. Hands-on training and education can get the lawyers and staff up to speed on the tools they will be using. As the principals learn more about the program, they’ll discover new features and learn how to increase their productivity and efficiency.
Certain parts of their job might be automated away, and new, more interesting and creative work should be offered so no one fears their job is being replaced by a robot or robotic process automation. Keep feedback channels open and foster a positive environment for opinions and comments, even allowing anonymous criticism that can provide a more honest appraisal of the new solution.
The final step looks back at the implementation and evaluates the project’s outcome. A project debrief meeting a few months after the full launch occurs can help assess the successful and unsuccessful parts of the project as well as identify any risks that might derail it down the line. Once the system is up and running properly, the expected KPIs should be measured against the results.
Any that fall short should be analyzed and examined to try to understand why they fell short. Was it a naïve understanding of the solution or a failure of the product? Successes and failures should be shared far, and everything should be documented to ensure a record of processes is created so that intelligence is not lost even if employees with important knowledge of the system move on.
The stakes for digital transformation are extremely high. Better data integration can make an organization’s data much more valuable. Analytics can create value through optimization, better customer experience, and more successful marketing. AI can review vast amounts of case-related documents in a fraction of the time or cost it normally takes to preserve, collect, review, and exchange case-related material between lawyers.
AI prediction technology can forecast litigation outcomes by utilizing past case law, win/lose rates, along with a whole host of other factors. Document automation can save considerable time by filling out forms based on data input. AI tools can analyze large IP portfolios and provide recommendations based on highly relevant information. Machine learning and NLP can accelerate contract negotiations by extracting relevant textual data from legal contracts and other important documents to guide legal opinions and analysis. Contracts can also be analyzed in seconds rather than in days, which helps speed up the process of negotiating and closing contracts.
The digital transformation is here and it’s kicking into high gear. Every business will be touched by it, whether they want to be or not, even law firms. With a proper plan and approach, new technology can be seamlessly integrated into a legal firm, where it will be quickly embraced by the company’s lawyers, legal assistants, and support staff and produce a more optimized and ultimately more profitable practice, something all partners and parties involved would, undoubtedly, love to see.