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Legal10 July, 2019

Legal professionals identify top trends with impact; what lawyers can do to be future-ready

The legal sector is undergoing transformation, driven primarily by the convergence of external trends. Increasing information complexity, client demands, economic forces, emerging technologies and shifting demographics all contribute to changes taking place today, and shaping the future. According to findings from the Future Ready Lawyer Survey  from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, the top five trends legal professionals expect will have the greatest impact over the next three years are:

  1. Coping with increased volume and complexity of information.
  2. Emphasis on improved efficiency and productivity.
  3. Understanding which legal technologies deliver the highest value.
  4. Meeting changing expectations from clients, and leadership.
  5. Financial issues, including greater price competition, alternative fee structures and cost containment pressures.

While more than two-thirds of lawyers expect that these trends will impact them by 2022, the survey found that fewer than one-third are very prepared to address any of one of them – revealing a concerning gap between these near-term forces and readiness to manage them.

The Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey reflects responses from 700 lawyers from across the U.S. and Europe.

Organisations that want to thrive in the years ahead cannot be complacent today. Agility will be the key to resilience. Being future-ready will require legal professionals to ensure their organisation has the right leadership and culture, talent, technology, processes and client focus in place. With a focus on future-readiness, organisations should assess their capabilities in these key categories and evaluate opportunities for change.

Leadership & culture: leadership should communicate a clear strategic vision, deliver a plan to get there and create a culture that is open to change.

Without strong leadership and a culture that embraces change, organisations will fail to evolve. Many lawyers indicate that leaders could be doing more to help their organisations become future ready. In fact, 55% of respondents in the Future Ready Lawyer Survey attributed leadership resistance to change and the difficulty of change management as top barriers to change in their organisations.

Talent: diversify employee expertise and skill-sets to strengthen overall organizational capabilities.

Law firms and law departments will need greater skill diversity on their teams, including technology experts – and the clock is ticking. About 8 in 10 lawyers say that the greater use of technology will play a bigger role in the delivery of services by 2022; yet the lack of knowledge, skills and understanding of technology are the top reasons lawyers report their organisations resist new technology, according to survey findings. The good news is that hiring technology specialists is the number-one step legal organisations are taking today to help drive future readiness, according to respondents.

Technology: assess needs and focus on solutions that solve for specific pain points.

Technology can help legal professionals: deliver better outcomes, realize greater efficiency and improve productivity. The key is a good understanding of specific pain points and opportunities, and then leveraging the right technology. The Future Ready Lawyer Survey found that organisations that optimise technology outperform those that don’t, across the board. They are also more profitable. In addition, technology adoption is accelerating, with the use of transformational technologies expected to double by 2022. This includes Predictive Analytics and Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation and Blockchain.

Processes: ensure the best processes are in place: don’t digitise the cow path.

The benefits that technology can deliver are heightened when the most effective organisational processes and workflows are in place. For example, the survey found that within the next three years, two-thirds of lawyers expect their organisations will use smart contracts, predictive analytics and decision support tools. Organisations need to understand how these technologies will – and should – change their processes and workflows across their organisations, and potentially with others in the external legal ecosystem.

Client-first focus: put the client at the centre of everything you do.

Legal industry leaders agree: changing client expectations will be a driving force in the transformation of the legal sector. Clients expect more for less, they want to pay for value delivered instead of hours worked and they expect ready access to service and expertise. Going forward, client service will need to be more insight-based, collaborative, accessible, specialised and price-sensitive. With the increasing digitalisation of client data, technological capabilities can also be a differentiator, as firms leverage data analytics to gain improved insights about their clients.

Preparing for the future

The trends lawyers are facing today will have significant impact for the entire legal sector well into the future: information complexity; the need to be more efficient and productive; effectively leveraging technology; delivering the highest value to clients; and managing costs. The organisations that will thrive are those that are agile and able to evolve key capabilities as the world around them continues to change.

You can download the full survey report for free here.

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