Price Waterhouse Cooper’s The Law Firm of the Future (UK) report 2017 says legal firms will need to bring the best technology to every legal process and to adopt a policy of continuous innovation as software advances become available.

It’s a lot of high concept words, but what does it actually mean? How will IT affect Irish legal firms in the next five, ten or twenty years?

Technology will do the work, lawyers will drive the technology

One major effect of IT is that while work will increasingly be ‘people led’ it will largely be ‘technology completed’. This can already be seen in the PWC report, which reveals that 41% of UK firms surveyed have brought document automation into every area of their practice. Document automation has three major benefits:

It reduces risk
Less error in transcription and typing means that legal documentation is likely to be more precise and invariable.

It cuts costs
Automated document production means less paralegals and temps involved in low level secretarial and administrative work.

It shortens timelines
Pre-prepared documentation – in cases like mergers and conveyancing – dramatically reduces the time required to complete case loads.

This frees up legal practitioners to do more face-to-face work, to engage with clients and to spot future opportunities to serve the client base.

Agile working requires IT

Agile working – a blend of maximum flexibility and minimum constraint – has become standard in several industries, although the legal sector has been seen as slow to adopt these new ideas.

Several industry experts suggest that the legal profession will need to adopt technology-driven agile working if it is to attract and retain key talent. Irish legal firms have seen some turbulence since the “Celtic Tiger” (An Tíogar Ceilteach) brought massive foreign investment followed by a precipitous crash of two years of punishing economic contraction in 2008 and 2009.

Many top flight lawyers moved away, and to retain current talent the culture of working endless hours has to change to smart working which will deliver better productivity, increased loyalty and create a culture of attainment, rather than endurance.

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Client collaboration tools are key to this change, allowing law teams to meet clients’ needs without having to be in the office. IT also allows legal practitioners to choose their location, so firms can benefit from teleworking which also gives team members more incentive to be productive.
Clients, clients, clients – IT-driven legal relationships

It’s already clear that clients are working with fewer law firms but on a more global basis. They are adopting demanding interview processes when choosing a legal partner and expecting to develop long term relationships.

Irish law firms benefiting from the analytical materials provided by powerful IT are able to demonstrate their value to clients by using big data and predictive analytics to offer services as – or just before – clients recognise the need for them.

So more efficient, more collaborative legal firms, able to position themselves to better meet clients needs and retaining talented and committed individuals are the future. IT is the leverage that will allow the best Irish legal firms to enter that future at the forefront, with confidence.