What impact could technology have on the law firm-client relationship?
This article is an extract from the Lawyers and Robots whitepaper. Click here to download the whitepaper.
Andy Morris, global head of IT solutions, Stephen Allen, head of legal service delivery, and Clare Dundon, innovation and new ventures manager at Hogan Lovells share their thoughts on how technology impacts the relationship between lawyers and clients.
Is technology important in your law firm?
Stephen Allen is of the opinion that technology is not just important but vital. He says:
‘Our clients’ world is changing. Car companies are now building “connected devices”, banks are creating technology applications and so on. At the same time there is an ever burgeoning level of regulatory burden and operating costs under continued scrutiny. To be able to help our clients meet all these challenges, we need to embrace technology—as a core tenet of a rethought people, process and technology solution.’
Andy Morris agrees and says:
‘In order to continue to grow as a business, a firm must offer a clearly differentiated value proposition. Technology is fundamental to that—it’s often an enabler to increased effectiveness and efficiency—a core component of most value propositions clients are interested in today.’
Clare Dundon added:
‘Technology is a great enabler—especially when it comes to collaboration. We have over 6,000 people in our firm across more than 45 offices globally. We use technology in multiple ways to help us work and deliver as a team. Bringing the best team together for our clients is of the utmost importance.’
How does the use of technology in your law firm affect your relationships with your clients? Dundon claims that for junior lawyers, technology has unlocked the door to more client interaction and says:
‘The horror stories of being left alone in dark and dusty disclosure rooms are becoming a thing of the past. Sophisticated document databases and collaborative platforms have allowed junior team members to reinvent their role—they now have the tools to manage the review process remotely and spread the tasks across a wider team. Managing the platform and the review process means much more regular and valuable contact with our clients. Not only that but technology is helping them find the needle in the haystack quicker, freeing up more time to engage in other areas of the matter.’
Allen believes clients need law firms to be efficient, available, connected and transparent: ‘Relationships will become more collaborative and imbedded. It will be impossible to achieve this without technology.’
Morris went on to add that:
‘It also changes expectations and the sense of urgency clients have for access to people and the information needed to make decisions and get the job done. Just as it has been said how did we do business before the fax machine followed by how did we do business before email—down the road the ‘nostalgia’ will be around doing business before algorithms and “smart assistants”.’
Technology will not replace the human, says Morris, but instead add to their ability to apply judgment and make sound decisions on a scale and at a pace that is difficult today.
How do clients want to see you using technology?
For Dundon, the sheer ubiquity of technology in our lives is staggering:
‘The flow of real-time data we digest from social media, wearable tech and other devices informs the decisions we make daily. That appetite naturally flows into our expectations of the working world. Our clients are no different. Technology can create a level of transparency over pricing and matter management which was previously not possible.’
‘Some really want to understand what technology can deliver and we have relationships with particular clients comparing notes on the 1,600 legal tech companies currently in the market and what benefits they may hold for the future. Many clients, however,are still in the “here and now”. As Clare highlights, technology that simply enables us to be more transparent around pricing and matter management ticks many boxes.’
Technology is a great enabler—especially when it comes to collaboration.
In concert with this Morris believes clients really want lawyers to be pragmatic visionaries.
‘They want to know that we are considering advancements, not standing still, while at the same time delivering tangible results that benefit them and their business. In the end, it is about business after all and what they ultimately want to see are outcomes that positively impact their bottom line and position in their markets.’
Is it important to your clients to see that you’re up-to-date with technology?
Morris posits that:
‘What clients are most interested in are the outcomes of the legal advice and services the firm provides, and how it impacts their business. If a firm is not delivering success at a price that seems fair, then perhaps they may want to ‘see’ what technology is involved. As a means of differentiating us from other firms, then demonstrating we are up-to-date can be a factor. I don’t believe any client is going to select a firm (or change firms) solely on how up-to-date the technology is—they are choosing the best lawyer. In those cases where they believe the lawyers are “equal”, then perhaps technology can be one of the tie breakers. In the hypercompetitive market today, this should not be taken for granted.’
Allen observes that:
‘Traditionally, the legal services market has been good at following leaders in innovation rather than leading it. However, today just being great lawyers is not enough. Clients want to partner with “trusted advisors” who see the bigger picture, are able to draw inferences from vast amounts of data or look at challenges in a new way. It is just expected that we understand what technology is doing to our clients businesses and what technology can do to help them succeed. This isn’t just about legal technology, it’s about keeping abreast of all advancements relevant to them and their businesses.’
‘Clients want “trusted advisors”— fulfilling that role means being out there exploring and understanding the impact technology is having on their market, their business and their future.’
How do you see the development of technology in the future affecting your work and your client relationships?
‘The world is becoming more complex at an ever increasing pace. I will need to work with people that are neither clients or colleagues, as I know them today, in ways that are not even possible to deliver outcomes that are beyond our imagination. To do this, I need a better tool box.’
As technology continues to facilitate new ways of working, the importance of building relationships in person will continue, says Dundon, who believes:
‘Something special happens when you bring a team of people around one table to really bottom out an issue. That is true for both clients and colleagues. Desktop video conferencing has helped to bridge the gap, but for truly strategic discussions, the time we have spent in person gives us as better understanding of each other’s fields and a stronger base to collaborate.’
‘The pace of business will never slow down—it will just continue to increase.
‘Technology in the future is both a driver of this as well as the only hope to stay on top of it.’
‘Technology will not replace the human, says Morris, but instead add to their ability to apply judgment and make sound decisions on a scale and at a pace that is difficult today.’