Top 5 Legal Technology Trends for 2018

As we all know, Technology is affecting every aspect of our lives, personal and professional. It is directly affecting every industry, though the impact and scope of this change varies. The profession of practicing law is no exception to this and in many ways is leading the trend. Below is a brief discussion of five law firm technology trends for 2018 from our perspective as a Managed Services Provider. These technologies and trends will mature and affect the legal profession for years to come.

1. "Security, Security, Security": Cybercrime and Perimeter Security

As far as cybercrime and cybersecurity are concerned, we expect more of what we saw in 2017. We will continue to see that the "Internet of Things" (IoT) will be used more often for criminal purposes, which will make the challenge to remain safe online tougher. We also predict that cybercriminals will start using more "Artificial Intelligence" (AI) to produce more elaborate and sophisticated attacks. One alarming trend is fake professional social media profiles that are being used by cybercriminals. Because of this increase in cyber threats, more lawyers are expected to increase their cyber security budgets in 2018. Law firms small and large are looking into securing their physical network, as well as their information. We expect that more lawyers will begin using encryption in 2018 than ever before. We are seeing a trend in security awareness across our clientele and are happy to report that security technology is quickly growing and maturing. Traditionally, lawyers have been more likely to resist the technology rather than interpreting cybersecurity trends, but that is simply no longer a valid mindset. Steps can and must be taken to implement the correct procedures to keep this information safe.

2. "Can WE Talk": Internal Collaboration and External Marketing/CRM tools

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has been around for a very long time and has been used by various industries and businesses for many years. Keeping all the client's information in one place allows for a better client experience and greatly improves internal organization. A better relationship keeps your clients happy and is generally great for your business.

As we all know, online communities and social media have evolved. Many industry professionals connect with each other to share and update the latest trends, ideas, and news. The legal industry has now caught on to the CRM wave. More and more firms that had no traditional sales or marketing teams are now creating internal committees and processes for attracting new business. Software technology that enables the automation process, engages the community and social platforms such as LinkedIn allows lawyers and other legal professionals to connect all over the world.

Internal knowledge and collaboration systems are also becoming more prevalent within law firms' operations. These systems allow firm staff to engage with team members in focused, real-time conversations and free themselves from the endless battle against email. Further benefits of these thought management systems include the ability to visualize tasks across the entire team and empower the team to organize, assign, and track tasks in meaningful ways.

3. "These Boots are made for Walking!" - Mobility and the Mobile Professional

The functionality and performance of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.) has drastically improved. The legal professional's day-to-day life is more mobile than ever. The modern lawyer understands the benefits of the ability to practice law anytime and anywhere. Reducing or eliminating the need to always be near a desktop improves both client engagement and satisfaction. Using legal-specific apps, email, and remote computing platforms, many lawyers can complete almost any type of work right from their phone or mobile device, and based on our clientele, they are doing just that. A new technology and rapidly evolving trend in day-to-day life is the smartwatch. These sleek devices place email and messages at your fingertips, or should we say wrist. Instead of constantly sorting through notifications on your phone or laptop, the most important and relevant information is not missed by stashing your phone away in a meeting.

4. The Great Cloud Migration: To migrate to the cloud or adopt a middle ground

Cloud technology has no doubt caused a major discussion and has become a primary disruptor for the legal industry. Many firms are slowly moving towards cloud technology by implementing email and content filtering solutions in the cloud or implementing cloud based backup and disaster recovery systems. This trend can only rise and peak from here. The cloud allows firms an unlimited size for the IT infrastructure and adopt new compute resources as needed without having to "future-proof" their IT spend decisions. The idea of paying for what you need/consume is taking priority over the traditional four to five-year IT spend cycle roller coaster. This trend helps to save, money, time, and resources. What we hear a lot about the cloud are security worries about the information that law firms are placing there. If you were to stop and think about it, many local servers may not be maintained or updated to the capacity that the cloud providers system are which causes the information to be less safe as it sits in your closet or firm's computer room!

If a law firm doesn't have a large IT support staff to keep everything up to date, cloud may be the way to go. One outdated software system can easily be a huge security concern for the firm. Firms who may be more IT adoptive or "leading edge", are beginning to place their entire compute platform into virtual private data centers. These firms "subscribe" to the server and desktop compute resources they require to virtualize their entire IT landscape into a secure and highly available data center. This has an impact on the firm and professional staff efficiency as they are empowered to work when and where they need. Also, from a financial perspective it changes the firm's IT spend from a Capital cost to a repeatable Operational cost which may be attractive to some firm's management teams.

5. "Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency": Business analytics, Performance and Practice Management

Less time spent organizing data, creating reports, and analyzing the numbers. Business Intelligence (BI) tools have and will continue to advance. Gone are the days where it takes weeks, even months to get important information from your IT or Finance departments. Law Firm BI like Attorney Analytics gives role-based information to all members of the firm daily. And one of the best parts about BI software is that it takes all the information and displays it in a visually appealing way to quickly glance and understand what it is you are viewing and recognize those important trends. Empowering the entire firm with key data saves both time and money.

As with many industries, the legal industry is all about performance and there is interest in performance at every level from the brand-new lawyer to managing partner. How many clients did you attract, how much revenue did you bill, was the firm profitable on your time, how often do you win? With technology, these benchmarks are very simple to track, and mean so much to profitability of the firm.

Hand in hand with mobility and the on-the-go lifestyle so many people are living, gone are the days of accepting only cash, personal checks and money orders. Your clients now pay in a variety of ways-- credit cards and mobile payment apps are two of the most popular. This is not the only change in the legal industry. The traditional billable hour model is being questioned. Some firms are attempting to move away from the billable hour and trying alternative billing methods to bring in new clientele.

In summary, with digital transformation at an all-time high, understanding these popular trends, only puts you and your firm ahead of the curve, which is the place you want to be. With peace of mind in the huge advancements for security, collaboration, mobility, cloud and efficiency, lawyers can be assured that embracing these trends is the right step to take for their firm. As we are very aware, many aspects of the legal sector never change, but taking the smart approach to tech adoption saves clients and firms alike a lot of time and money. To engage on these or any other technical topics please feel free to contact Hilltop Consultants directly.

"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road."
-Stewart Brand (American Writer)