Technology: we couldn’t imagine our lives without it today. When smartphones first came out, we were impressed with all the things they could do, but now we treat them as an afterthought – walking around with tiny computers in our pockets is no longer seen as a luxury, but a necessity.
What this means is that you probably already have more technology skills than you might realize. For whatever reason, many lawyers are resistant to adopting technology in their work lives, even though they lean on it heavily in their personal lives. Perhaps it’s because it seems like there’s more on the line if something goes wrong at work, or maybe it’s because legal tech sounds sophisticated and learning it feels daunting.
Here’s the good news: a lot of today’s legal tech offerings are mimicking the general consumer tech platforms that you already know and use on a regular basis. That means that you already have the skills to use them, you just need to apply them to new tools.
Here are some key ways legal tech is taking a page out of the consumer tech playbook.
- Spend Management – Let’s face it: law is a business, and that means you need to both spend and make money in order to succeed. So why would you insist on using accounting processes that only serve to create roadblocks to doing just that? Between online banking apps from every major bank, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, and more, we’ve all been tracking finances, paying bills, and accepting money on the go for years now. Work budgeting should be no different. Today, there are countless automated legal matter management platforms that allow you to track spending, approve invoices, submit payments, and more, all from your mobile phone. Monitoring and managing your legal spend doesn’t have to be more labor-intensive than staying on top of your own bank accounts.
- A Marketplace for Services – When you want to buy a new lamp or book a trip, you probably head straight online. Thanks to marketplace sites like Amazon, Expedia, eBay, and more, we’re used to being able to easily find the things we need while also being offered a wide array of options. As alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) have significantly increased corporate legal departments’ options when it comes to procuring legal services, the industry has started to adopt the consumer marketplace model. Several platforms have emerged where you can shop for the specific kinds of legal services you need at a price that fits your budget—essentially one-stop shops for all your legal needs.
- Service-on-Demand Models – Similar to the marketplace concept, some ALSPs are making legal services available on short notice or for one-off needs, like coverage for routine hearings or help with a single brief. Much like you’d hire an Uber or a Lyft for a single occasion, now you can use that same on-demand approach to filling in gaps that might exist in your in-house staffing. This model also works well for longer-term solutions to challenges like coverage for attorneys on leave, workflow spikes and projects requiring specialized skillsets.
- AI-Powered Research – We all know that person who can’t wait to say “Hey, Siri” as soon as a question arises. Whether you’re speaking it or Googling a question yourself, you’ve come to trust AI to produce predictive search results that are designed to answer the actual question you’re asking, not just finding resources on a particular topic. The big legal research tools today are following this lead, incorporating AI and natural language processing into their research platforms to answer basic legal questions, not just generate source materials. That means you can always still do a deep boolean search on complex legal topics, but you can also get to high-level answers and the right research path faster by researching the way you think.
- Social Media – Love it or hate it, social media isn’t going away. It’s become a legitimate business tool, as well as a place where lawyers can get vetted career advice. LinkedIn has long been seen as the professional social media platform, but legal-specific social media platforms are emerging where lawyers can get real answers from their peers—like an industry-specific Glassdoor or Reddit. If you want to know how your in-house salary compares to similar companies or what tools and ALSPs are helping other in-house lawyers succeed, there are valuable channels you can tap into.
Legal tech is here to stay, and innovation will continue to transform the way in-house lawyers do their jobs. If you have any hesitation about incorporating legal tech into your daily work, fear not. The more legal tech matures, the more it seeks to mimic the consumer experience, focusing less on features and functionalities, and more on what users want to get out of it.
The skills you’ve honed over the years (whether you realize it or not) from using technology in your personal life are highly translatable to the tools that allow you to be more productive, efficient, and successful at work. Better yet, the gains to be had in terms of time and cost can be far more valuable than the mere convenience you get from your smartphone apps.