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Why Now Is the Time for LegalTech To Expand Automation in Law Firms

legaltech legal workflow automation

Legal organizations faced tremendous challenges in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. Firms and departments rapidly transitioned to remote work environments and were forced to rely upon their established technology resources more than ever before. While the industry fared better than many others, the experience has caused organizations to rethink their longstanding business models and workflow processes. As firms consider what steps to take in 2021 and beyond, LegalTech developers must be closely attuned to the pressures informing those decisions so they can provide the software to support automation in law firms.

The research firm Gartner provided a glimpse into those pressures in a 2020 survey focused on legal spending trends. Their findings reveal an industry in transition as legal organizations increasingly work to expand their internal capabilities, improve legal document automation, and reduce reliance on outside spending. LegalTech developers are uniquely positioned to facilitate this inward turn with versatile legal workflow automation software.

Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths

The COVID-19 pandemic forced law firms and legal departments to take notice of organizational shortcomings that often escaped notice in previous years. According to Gartner research, the biggest area of concern was by far technology solutions. Some organizations found themselves saddled with legacy systems that lacked the robust feature set of modern LegalTech applications. Others, however, wisely made the investment in new software over the last decade, but those systems have not been fully adopted by legal personnel. This echoes the results from a 2020 Accusoft survey that found over 40 percent of firms are still relying on inefficient manual processes for document assembly, discovery, signature gathering, redaction, and contract management. 

For LegalTech developers, these twin shortcomings present a tremendous opportunity. Legal organizations will be in need of technology solutions that help them to automate low-value tasks and enhance collaboration capabilities while also looking to secure broader acceptance and buy-in from employees. That means delivering a streamlined, intuitive user experience will be every bit as important as integrating the latest legal workflow automation software.

Identifying Opportunities

The LegalTech market is a diverse and rapidly growing field that consists of multiple technology solutions. Gartner’s 2020 research into legal organizations offers a helpful snapshot of how far these firms and departments have to go when it comes to legal technology adoption and automation in law firms:

  • E-Billing: 48 percent
  • Contract LIfecycle Management: 44 percent
  • Document Management: 40 percent
  • eDiscovery: 33 percent
  • Records Management: 28 percent

Although overall legal spend did not change substantially from 2019 to 2020, the pandemic has caused firms to shift resources away from outsourced services and toward their in-house capabilities. With nearly a third of organizations looking to accelerate their technology, there are significant opportunities for LegalTech developers to deliver efficient and cost-effective solutions. Contract automation tools, document management platforms, and eDiscovery applications will all be in high demand thanks to their ability to help firms enhance their productivity and scale services in a sustainable fashion.

Improving Implementation

Understanding the work culture and processes of a legal organization is critical to any successful technology implementation. Without that knowledge, developers can end up building a solution that doesn’t meet a customer’s needs or is too removed from existing workflows to be easily adopted. This problem was quite pronounced in the early days of LegalTech software, when many legal professionals still had doubts about the usefulness of technology.

Communication between developers and legal departments is quickly improving, however. From 2018 to 2020, the number of organizations with a legal operations manager in place increased by 75.8 percent. In 40 percent of firms, that role is filled by a non-lawyer who is better equipped to facilitate conversations between software developers and internal stakeholders.

LegalTech developers can use this channel to get a better idea of how they can implement solutions like legal document automation through an organization’s existing technology stack with minimal disruption. They can also begin to address specific internal pain points and match those needs to the right software integrations to round out their application’s functionality. Versatile SDK and API integrations will play a crucial role in meeting these needs because developers may have to build out customized feature sets to provide the ideal capabilities.

Doing More with Less

Developers with the ability to build out customizable, flexible software applications can also help legal customers to eliminate redundant or outdated solutions they already have in place. There’s no reason for a firm to rely on one program for assembling documents, another for viewing and redlining them, and yet another for redacting them to protect privacy. With the right software integrations, LegalTech developers can build core productivity features into their platforms quickly and easily. They can then offer a comprehensive solution that solves multiple customer needs and allows them to incorporate more of their workflows into a comprehensive, secure application environment.

This consolidation of LegalTech capabilities will continue to be important as all but the largest legal organizations transition toward a more customer service-oriented business model that emphasizes competitive, transparent pricing and “off-the-shelf” legal services. Legal collaboration will increasingly expand to include the firm’s clients, which makes the adoption of easily-accessible web applications more important than ever. An ideal LegalTech solution will allow legal teams to share information easily, quickly, and securely with people inside and outside their organization. Developers can build the applications that make this possible, ushering in a new era of transparency, collaboration, and efficiency that will help firms continue to grow.

Choosing the Right Integrations

Accusoft’s collection of SDK and API integrations have long helped LegalTech developers incorporate the powerful features their customers are looking for into their applications. By turning to contract assembly tools like PrizmDoc Editor or the legal document automation capabilities of Barcode Xpress, software teams can quickly implement core functionality while dedicating the bulk of their resources to building innovative new features that will set their product apart in a crowded market. 

The benefits of selecting the right integration partner are particularly evident when looking at eDiscovery applications. Developing a comprehensive LegalTech eDiscovery platform requires a wide-range of viewing, annotation, comparison, conversion, search, and redaction options. Building those features from scratch can extend development timelines by months, which could potentially cost a software developer their chance to break into a highly competitive market. With an API integration like PrizmDoc Viewer, however, they can rapidly integrate proven features into their application to help deliver better performance to customers while also getting to market faster and saving valuable resources that may be needed elsewhere during the development cycle. 

To learn more about how Accusoft’s family of SDK and API integrations can transform your LegalTech application and improve automation in law firms, have a look at our LegalTech Fact Sheet and match the right solution to your development needs.