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APIs: The Cornerstone of LegalTech, Part 1

The legal profession may not be the first sector that comes to mind when thinking about how technology is transforming the way organizations conduct business, but LegalTech is quickly becoming an essential component of practicing law. Innovative digital platforms are helping legal firms to improve efficiency and solve problems, even though choosing and implementing these solutions isn’t always an easy process.

Despite the clear benefits of legal technology, status quo bias and concerns about onboarding difficulties have combined to make many organizations hesitant to invest in these tools. The concerns are understandable given that each new solution has the potential to disrupt established processes and ways of doing business. Today’s legal clients, however, expect firms to be more responsive to their needs and move quickly to advocate for their cases. Forward-thinking legal organizations  recognize that LegalTech isn’t so much a “necessary evil” as an outright necessity to business success.

Obstacles Facing LegalTech Adoption

As the legal industry becomes more competitive, firms are under intense pressure to do more with less while also improving their administrative agility. While there are many technology solutions available to facilitate this digital transformation, the implementation process often presents a series of obstacles. The sheer number of LegalTech solutions to choose from, whether in terms of software applications and platforms or devices and locations, can be overwhelming, especially when it comes time to integrate into a coherent IT strategy.

Lawyers routinely need to switch between different platforms and systems, some of which don’t communicate with each other. A key tool in one application may not exist in another, and in many cases data can’t be transferred between them easily. The constant juggling not only disrupts workflows and impacts efficiency, but also introduces abundant opportunities for human error to creep into processes. These risks combine to make many legal organizations resistant to adopting and learning new legal technologies, and instead drive them to rely upon outdated practices and systems.

Law firms have also been forced to adapt the way they operate due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, essential tasks like meeting face-to-face with clients, conducting records research during discovery, and consulting with fellow attorneys are much more complicated. With many law offices shifting to a remote environment, legal professionals  find themselves switching between work laptops and personal devices frequently while also trying to access their firm’s intranet securely from off-site locations. All of these factors combine to reduce remote productivity since lawyers aren’t able to access the full range of their legal resources from their current location or device to create a single, cohesive workflow.

LegalTech and API Integrations

Despite the obstacles posed by adopting new tools and platforms, legal firms simply can’t afford to ignore digital transformation trends. By investing in innovative new legal technology, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to long-term growth and providing a better customer experience. Law clients understand that automation and other smart technologies can help them save money and receive better, more personalized service. In order to be successful in this environment, firms need to adopt a competitive growth strategy that is complemented by investments in technology.

Fortunately, many of the technology challenges facing legal organizations can be solved through API integrations. Short for application programming interface, APIs are an essential feature of today’s IT deployments that allow companies to get the most out of their disparate systems and applications.

How API Integration Works

At a very simple level, an API consists of code that allows two separate technology systems to communicate and interact with one another. It functions a bit like a translator and messenger, delivering user requests and data from one system to a completely separate system. This effectively allows an application to utilize the features and data of other applications without having to build out that functionality from scratch.

For example, the Uber ride-sharing app connects customers to available drivers within a specific area. It does this with a combination of smartphone geolocation and accurate maps, but the Uber app doesn’t actually have its own mapping capabilities. To get those features, it connects to Google Maps by way of an API that allows it to access the relevant navigational data and use it to connect customers to drivers.

Another key function of APIs is their ability to automate key processes and connect legacy infrastructure to newer technology systems. Data can be collected in one system, for instance, and “pushed” into another automatically. This not only eliminates the complicated (and error prone) task of manually transferring data between different systems, but also allows users to build a workflow in an application they’re already accustomed to without having to learn an entirely new system. 

More importantly, since APIs allow newer technologies, devices, and legacy applications to talk to each other, they provide firms with substantial flexibility when it comes to adding new platforms. Purchasing new software doesn’t mean throwing out existing tools, which substantially reduces the risks associated with technology investments and upgrades.

Stay Tuned for More

API integration and interoperability can deliver tremendous benefits to legal workflows and help firms better serve their clients. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series to learn how Accusoft’s API capabilities can unlock the full potential of your applications.