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 are all contributing to changes today, as they shape the future.
Ahead of ILTACON 2019, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory has just released a new infographic guide on findings from its Future Ready Lawyer Survey, highlighting the trends that are having the most significant impact on the legal industry. According to the survey, the top five trends legal professionals expect will have the greatest impact over the next three years are:
- Coping with increased volume and complexity of information.
- Emphasis on improved efficiency and productivity.
- Understanding which legal technologies deliver the highest value.
- Meeting changing expectations from clients, and leadership.
- 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 of lawyers are very prepared to address any of one of them – revealing a concerning gap between these near-term forces and readiness to manage them.
“These trends will drive change across the entire legal sector,” said Dean Sonderegger, head of Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. “Organizations that want to thrive in the years ahead cannot be complacent today. Agility will be the key to resilience.”
The survey findings point to critical areas that legal organizations can focus on to respond to the world around them. With a focus on future readiness, organizations 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, organizations will fail to evolve. Many lawyers indicate that leaders could be doing more to help their organizations 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 organizations.
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 organizations resist new technology, according to survey findings. The good news is that hiring technology specialists is the number-one step legal organizations 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 organizations that optimize 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 best processes are in place: Don’t digitize the cow path.
The benefits that technology can deliver are heightened when the most effective organizational processes and workflows are in place. For example, the survey found that within the next three years, two-thirds of lawyers expect their organizations will use smart contracts, predictive analytics and decision support tools. Organizations need to understand how these technologies will – and should – change their processes and workflows across their organizations, and potentially with others in the external legal ecosystem.
CLIENT-FIRST FOCUS: Put the client at the center 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, specialized and price-sensitive. With the increasing digitalization of client data, technological capabilities can also be a differentiator, as firms leverage data analytics to gain improved insights about their clients.
ILTACON 2019 will take place from August 18-22 in Orlando, FL. To learn more about the Future Ready Lawyer Survey, stop by the Wolters Kluwer booth #705.
About the Future Ready Lawyer Survey
The Future Ready Lawyer Survey from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory included quantitative interviews with 700 lawyers in law firms, legal departments and business services firms across the U.S. and 10 European countries – the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Hungary and the Czech Republic – to examine how technology and other factors are affecting the future practice of law across core areas and how legal organizations are prepared to address these. The Survey was conducted online for Wolters Kluwer by a leading international research organization from December 10, 2018 through January 13, 2019.