The need to become a digital business has involved law firms adapting on a significant scale in the last 12 months. John Espley, LEAP (UK) CEO, talks about what is happening in legal technology and highlights significant considerations law firms should make when it comes to choosing software.
A lot of change had taken place within the legal profession, in the move towards digitalisation, before the pandemic. The speed of change has accelerated during the past year and, more importantly, lawyers must be able to continue delivering outstanding customer service.
Consumer trends have developed dramatically over the past 18 months, driving change in the way businesses operate, including law firms. Consumers are now more digitally aware. With working from home, and interacting online through technologies such as Zoom, the necessity for face-to-face meetings has gone. As a customer we want instant answers to our questions and a fast speed of service, including for legal services. The pace of change has forced law firms to digitalise the way they operate, creating an increase in the demand for technology and all elements of the solution offering.
It is clear law firms need to become digital if they have not done so already. However, with so much to contemplate in the legal software market, what should lawyers consider when looking to either adopt a Practice Management Solution, or change provider?
Product, Product, Product
The product itself is the key determinant on any purchasing decision you should make. It is the quality of product, its features and functionality, that ultimately your purchasing decision should be based on. After all, the product is what your staff will be using daily, so you must evaluate the expected efficiencies you stand to gain from using it. You must focus on what the product will provide to your practice, how your team will benefit from it and the value the product will add to your business in the long term.
Make sure your chosen technology partner has a track record when it comes to innovation and avoid deciding on a solution based on the promise of future development alone. You want to choose a software provider with a proven history of development, that offers a feature-rich solution and re-invests in their software. Pick a provider that will help to future-proof your practice and meet your long-term digital requirements without the need to upgrade systems a couple of years down the line.
Essential to the software you purchase is the support you receive. With the right solution you will receive plenty of updates and additional features, so you need resources at hand, to upskill, provide product and usage information and to be able to ‘LiveChat’ with support when required. By improving the use of the software across your practice you help maximise the return on your firm’s investment. Habits have changed drastically in recent years, and in terms of accessing support, users do not want to be waiting on a phone but want access to resources straight away, retrieving answers for themselves so that they can continue with the job in hand.
The longevity of a supplier, with a background of dealing with law firms across the market, of all sizes, is important. A large client portfolio, working with start-ups to multi-branched law firms, catering for many different areas and style of law shows a proven track record and level of expertise, and the larger the provider’s user base the greater the feedback they receive, helping inform decisions on the software’s ongoing development.
LEAP has a large number of firms from sole practitioners to SME practices with many users using the software, and for years has been developing and tailoring the software, working with those clients to improve the software and hone its features and functionality. Globally, LEAP has an annual R&D investment of more than £12 million.
Value or price
It is very tempting to be swayed by price, especially for start-up firms looking after their budgets, but for the long-term a buying decision should be based on the value that the technology will deliver over a long period of time, and not just as a stop gap.
Part of a software supplier’s value is not just the software available now but being able to envisage the future and continue to develop the solution to meet ongoing requirements. Longevity for the law firm is vital and partnering with a provider to support the firm’s growth is essential. At LEAP we expect to support firms to benefit from our software for at least 10 years, supporting their journey through good and bad times, and helping them grow and change in the future.
What about the future?
The reality is consumer trend is demanding change. Now more than ever clients expect to interact with their solicitor quickly and efficiently, in a digital format, and firms that don’t enable this will be left behind. Operating digitally and embracing new technology allows full communication and enables greater service. Also, the nature of competition has changed, as firms have digitalised, they have understood how it allows them to embrace a national client base. Law firms can serve their clients digitally wherever they are geographically in the world, and as that is the case why restrict yourself? You no longer need to share a location to practice law, with the right technology to support it everything can be done virtually.