Part of The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) report published last month on technology and legal services, outlined the benefits of legal technology in their latest research.
Technological innovations are reshaping the legal sector with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming increasingly common. SRA’s report seeks to educate their regulated law firms on the opportunities technology can bring to the marketplace and enhance the way they work and service their clients.
Research conducted by CBRE last year of London law firms revealed that 48% are already using AI and a further 41% will start to do so in the near future. The study revealed that the most common uses of AI include legal documentation generation and review (mentioned by 63% of firms), e-discovery (63%), due diligence (47%), research (42%), compliance and administrative support (both 32%).
The SRA felt the main challenge of the legal market is realising the many benefits of investing technology within their business. As legal technology can potentially help law firms offer a more efficient, productive and accurate service to their clients.
With investment in technology lower in the legal sector than in other professional service sectors, such as accountancy, it will take a lot of convincing amongst the sceptics who work in this field to invest. But, ultimately firms will find themselves in difficulty when trying to compete when clients will increasingly expect them to utilise innovative technology.
SRA confirmed that increased use of technology can help the legal market by improving access to legal services, meet demand of their clients, drive competition in the market and improve standards of customer service.
Access to Legal Services
The SRA has provided a paper, Improving access – tackling unmet legal needs which highlights how technology, such as the use of automated services, can help improve access to justice.
The SRA believe if firms can increase their efficiency and production output, they would be able to reduce costs which would, in turn, meet the needs of those who cannot afford legal advice – while still retaining profit for the firm.
It has been reported that over a third of people who have legal problems try to resolve them without seeking professional legal advice, while 28% of people who would like to take legal advice do not because they think they cannot afford it. With improved efficiency, firms could take advantage of this large market available to them.
It is believed that remote working systems could also help deliver services to those who could afford it but physically cannot, such as those living in remote areas or those who are not near a specialist in the area of work they require.
As the use of technology is a part of peoples’ everyday life, there is an increasing demand for online services. Over a third of businesses and almost half of people who use legal services say that they want online legal services. Consumers are pushing for technology in conveyancing, especially to bring transparency and better access to information. Nearly a third of all legal services are currently online or by email – while the figure for conveyancing services increases to over 50%.
Research undertaken last year by InfoTrack found there to be massive demand among house-movers for their conveyancers to implement technology in order to improve digital communication and access to real-time information about their transaction.
Other benefits to using technology to deliver legal services are that the Government are looking to improve the home buying process, by introducing e-conveyancing to this area of law.
Furthermore, The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have piloted an online court scheme for county court claims. Out of the 1,400 people who used the scheme 80% responded positively. Due to the success of the scheme, this service is now live for those wanting to start a county court action for money claims up to £10,000.
Competing with other firms
The firms that the SRA regulate face ever-increasing competition from other businesses, especially those which are technology-focused. Those businesses who only offer unreserved legal services do not need to be regulated under the Legal Services Act 2007. In order to compete with these businesses, firms need to offer equivalent, if not better services, at a similar cost too.
SRA have reported approximately 50% of small firms have implemented new technology within the last two years. Adopting Technology within the legal industry is not about reducing employment – it just allows skilled solicitors to focus their time and energy on providing better value and gaining rapport with their clients. The importance of retaining highly skilled solicitors has never been more vital, especially in the conveyancing market as a recent survey suggests that there is a shortage of conveyancers.
With the most common cause for complaints to the Legal Ombudsman being delays, using technology will help firms complete work much quicker and accurately. As clients demand services to be turned around quickly, AI applications can automate routine process work rapidly and in half the time a human lawyer can. Faster processing of everyday routine legal tasks coupled with better engagement will make clients more satisfied.
There is no doubt implementing technology greatly improves efficiency, productivity, accuracy, consistency, and even profitability. More importantly, though, using legal technology can make better use of solicitors’ time to concentrate on their clients by giving the highest standards of service and client satisfaction.
To read SRA’s full report on the benefits of using legal technology click here.