Timely technology adoption is a worry among lawyers

While many in the legal field agree that technology is changing the industry, not everyone is moving at the same speed when it comes to adapting. And many lawyers don't believe their firms are up for the challenge. 

Indeed, only about one-third of the lawyers who took part in a recent survey said their firms were "very prepared" to keep pace with the changes in the legal market. That's just one of the many findings of the 2019 Future Ready Lawyer Survey from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory.

“After years of debate about the transformation of the legal sector – if, when and how it would happen – there’s no question that the global future of law is rapidly underway, and that technology is a key force for change,” said Stacey Caywood, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory. “Legal professionals are increasingly turning to accessible and impactful technologies that help them achieve better outcomes and offer higher value through data-driven analytics and insights, and higher efficiency and productivity.”

The independently conducted survey of 700 lawyers from Europe and the U.S. focused on three core areas and asked lawyers to assess their current state and future priorities and preparedness to identify what it will take to be future ready in the areas of: Tools & Technology; Client Needs & Expectations; and Organization & Talent.

Across these categories, the Survey found significant differences between those organizations already optimizing technology, with plans to invest in new technologies (Technology Leaders), and those with limited use today with plans to leverage technology to a greater extent ahead (Transitioning organizations). Detailed findings are available in the Survey report, which can be downloaded here.

Preparing for Change

Lawyers foresee pressure from a series of trends they expect to impact their organizations over the next three years. The top five trends expected to have the most impact according to the Future Ready Lawyer Survey are:

 -Coping with increased volume and complexity of information (72% report expected impact)

- Emphasis on improved efficiency and productivity (71%)

- Understanding which legal technologies deliver the highest value (69%)

- Meeting changing client and leader expectations (68%); and

- Financial issues including greater price competition, alternative fee structures and cost containment pressures (68%).

Yet, there’s a concerning gap between these near-term forces and readiness to manage them. Fewer than one-third of lawyers report their organizations overall are very prepared to address any one of these trends.

In fact, while “Coping with increased volume and complexity of information” is a concern for 72% of lawyers, only 31% indicate their organization is very prepared to address it. Next, 71% of lawyers say “Emphasis on improved efficiency and productivity” will impact their organization, but only 31% are very prepared to respond.

Other key findings of the Future Ready Lawyer Survey include:-

- About one-third of lawyers overall (34%) believe their organization is very prepared to keep pace with changes in the legal market. Technology Leading organizations, however, fare better, with 50% very prepared to keep up with expected changes, compared to just 19% of Transitioning organizations.

- 53% of lawyers indicate their organization’s technology investment will increase over the next three years, with Technology Leaders most likely to report increased future investments in technology. Technology Leading firms also report being more profitable. 

- The Lack of Technology Knowledge, Understanding or Skills comprise the top category of reasons for resisting new technology (36%), followed by Organizational issues (34%) and Financial matters (30%). 

- Across both Europe and the U.S., lawyers in law firms and legal departments agree that the two greatest areas of change in how firms and law departments deliver service will be related to Greater use of technology and Greater specialization. 

- Top criteria law firms say they will be evaluated on moving ahead include: Ability to understand and partner with clients; Pricing; and Specialization.  Top challenges for corporate legal departments are: Reducing and controlling outside legal costs; Improving case and contract management; and Automating routine tasks and leveraging technology in work processes.

“The Survey indicates the future of law is truly global, with many similar findings across the U.S. and Europe and even types of organizations,” said Caywood. “While some differences were found based on specific geography or organization type, the most significant differences overall were reported between Technology Leaders and those Transitioning and Trailing organizations still not leveraging technology effectively.”