The impact of technology on collaboration in law firms - an optimistic future

The impact of technology on collaboration in law firms - an optimistic future

Part 2 of the great debate over technology, editors Mark and Catherine weigh up the pros and cons of technology on collaboration in a rapidly changing legal landscape.  

It’s no secret that technology has transformed society. Our sense of the every-day has been altered by intuitive technologies that have become indelibly integrated into our existence; from the group chats that loom large in our friendships, to the contactless cards that enable efficient use of our transport networks, and the shared systems that streamline our work days. There’s little denying that life has been permanently changed by technology. With the rise of tech, our ability to collaborate has simultaneously been enhanced. While my colleague, Mark, will argue that technology has the potential to blight meaningful collaboration, I will present an argument that underlines the benefits of technology when it comes to collaboration.

Sharing is Caring

The development of shared platforms has been transformative for work place collaboration. The advent of collaborative systems has been instrumental in providing transparent means of: document sharing, time management, billing and CRM.  Rather than have any number of versions of a document floating around, instead colleagues can stay up to date immediately and perform edits in real time without confusion. This innovation is not only an essential for internal matters but can be transformative for enhancing client relationships. Not only are shared platforms useful for expediting process, shared platforms enhance communication and can help clients feel embedded in the legal process by effortlessly staying up to date with work. With commercialism driving efficiency savings, it is essential for lawyers to be able to communicate in a timely, transparent and fiscally prudent manner. This is where shared platforms really come through; due to the transparency of the platform, firms can accelerate client sign off.

Shared platforms have offered huge steps forward to achieving a simpler method of liaising with clients and preventing onerous back-and-forths whilst documents are confirmed. These platforms are arguably best placed to enable efficiency savings, they are useful tools in building trusted partnerships with clients. Rather than forcing stilted conversations between client and lawyer about who has done what and when, technology has enhanced our ability to communicate to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

Tech transparency

From “read” receipts, to a culture of sharing, technology has been instrumental in enhancing client expectation and desire for expedient communication. In a world where commercial forces are driving the futures of law firms, cultivating a culture of transparency regarding completed work, when and for how much is essential. This could be through using shared billing portals, or shared documents that provide clients with a realistic timeline.

The same principle transfers to client management systems. Historically, many businesses have suffered from communication repetition, whereby team members duplicate contact with clients, aggravating client relationships and dinting internal workstreams. Shared CRM tools, which remain fully up to date even when updated by multiple users have enhanced businesses’ ability to collaborate internally and prevent the mismanagement of clients. Whether this mishandling is through duplication, or worse, through missing important relationship changes and milestones, fully integrated CRM tools allow users to update CMS notes regularly and in a shareable way.

Location, Location, Location?

My colleague says that technology has changed the face of collaboration; and he’s right. However, technology hasn’t diminished collaboration it’s transformed and nourished it. While it’s true that the face to face meeting is suffering a long death, in its absence though, remote working has grown. Flexible working has risen in tandem with the growth of technology tools, due to its ability to bring professionals in the room when they are miles away. Unlike the face to face meeting, which can only draw from a small demographic of professionals, (those who are able to get into the office every day) flexible working has enabled businesses to draw on the skills of professionals who (for whatever reason) can only work from home. Technologies based on popular and easy to use consumer messaging services have made significant in-roads to realising greater diversity in our workplaces. Indeed, remote working has provided a huge leveller for our professional eco-systems, enabling traditionally home-based workers, such as: new mothers/fathers, people working from different cities, older employees, those who are less able to travel. An important aid to collaboration, technology has enhanced our ability to make meaningful contributions and input into professional conversations without being in the room.

Time to Recruit:

On the flip side of this- technology has the power to get people in the room. As studies have shown, up to date technology is a vital component when it comes to recruiting millennial employees. By investing in new technologies and integrating them into your work streams, law firms will reap the benefits when it comes to recruiting top talent. Tech has been cited as one of the greatest considerations for trainees, thanks to its ability to expedite the process of legal research, minimising the quantity of laborious tasks.

Further, technology has the capacity to bring on millennial colleagues faster than traditional modes of teaching, thanks to the intuitive nature of new technologies which millennials are already familiar with. In addition, tech takes the time burden of very simple tasks and leave your junior advocates to get to grips with more difficult work.  This investment will aid collaboration later down the line too; by enabling junior colleagues up to speed with tech quickly, you will provide a useful springboard to introduce juniors to high level conversations through accelerated learnings.

Let’s work together?

Technology undoubtedly has transformed our ability to connect and work together. A vital tool in managing the strain of commercialisation, recruiting good people and retaining clients, technology has advanced what is possible for professionals. While technology has, undoubtedly, put pressure on traditional modes of working, tech is a crucial component to broadening the outlook of business; without it business suffers the absence of home-based talent and limits communication and trust with clients.

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About the author:
Catherine is one of the Future of Law's digital editors. She graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and worked at a barristers chambers before joining Lexis Nexis.