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Looking Ahead to LegalTech Trends in a Post-Pandemic World

For many years, the legal industry proved resistant to the changes that were pushing other organizations toward digital transformation. Although the serious shocks of the 2008 financial crisis were not enough to spark a revolution in LegalTech automation, they did at least get many firms to start thinking differently about how they deployed technology. 

After enduring the disruption of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, firms are finally implementing the software applications that will help them to deliver legal services far more effectively. In order to understand what’s driving today’s LegalTech trends, it’s important to first recognize why changes that didn’t take place in 2008 are happening now.

Why 2020 Differs From 2008

The legal industry was not spared the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis. Rather than reassessing their fundamental business model, most firms reacted to the recession by laying off personnel. According to the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), nine percent of US associates lost their jobs over a nine month period between 2009 and 2010. 

While this strategy managed to protect profits in the short term, it had a negative impact on their talent pipelines in the long run. More importantly, firms also had little immediate incentive to rethink their business processes. Reducing personnel and increasing rates allowed them to meet their immediate revenue goals, and the basic structure of delivering legal services remained mostly unchanged. And, to be fair, many LegalTech automation platforms were not yet mature enough at that time to deliver clear value, especially when compared to the costs of implementation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has presented firms with a very different set of conditions. Almost every sector was impacted and it was not immediately clear how long the disruption would last. Social distancing requirements made it all but impossible for attorneys to meet with clients in person. After the initial wave of salary cuts and furloughs, firms were forced to think about how they could continue to deliver services in the midst of a pandemic.

Customer expectations have also changed dramatically since 2008. Legal clients expect faster, more efficient services delivered at a competitive price point. In order to grow revenue beyond 2020, firms will need to reorient themselves to do more with less, adopting the technology infrastructure that allows them to build more efficient processes and automate low value tasks so partners and associates can focus on other areas.

Post-2020 LegalTech Trends

Historically, the business model of most legal firms focused on immediate priorities and a reactive demand model that proved resistant to automation and efficiency. Since firms tend to look to metrics like PEP (Profit per Partner) to judge the health of the business, investing in process-oriented technology that would enable support staff to work more efficiently was rarely appealing. That’s because such investments would eat into short-term profits without offering a clear benefit in the future. 

But those benefits had very real potential, especially for firms and legal departments willing to look at different, less partner-driven business models that put more emphasis on customer-centric services. The firms that made the difficult decision to invest in LegalTech automation early now find themselves in a better position to thrive in a post-2020 landscape than competitors who were slower to adopt.

While premier “big law” firms will likely continue to offer high-value legal work to clients that require more specialized, strategic services, other firms and departments will be in an ideal position to capitalize on the type of work that benefits more from LegalTech automation. Specifically, they can leverage technology to meet known demand, or the day-to-day low to mid-level legal services that many customers expect and budget for. This is the type of work where efficient processes and automation make it possible for firms to take on more work and quickly scale their operations. It’s also a more customer-centric approach that acknowledges the ability to deliver legal services swiftly and cost-effectively will be a tremendous competitive advantage in the years ahead.

A Second Chance at Digital Transformation

Moments of crisis and disruption typically provide organizations with the opportunity to innovate and rethink their approach to how they do business. The legal industry, however, largely failed to adapt significantly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Firms were often unwilling to change their processes or invest in new technology solutions, which makes it even more vital for them to adapt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some respects, the industry is getting a second chance to undergo true digital transformation. Due to the unique circumstances of the 2020 downturn, there is every reason to expect that the demand for legal services will grow substantially in 2021 and beyond. From cases and contracts that could not be resolved during the pandemic to a broad range of lawsuits related to COVID-19, legal organizations will need to put the right digital tools in place to handle caseloads efficiently. 

Stay Ahead of LegalTech Trends with Accusoft Integrations

In order to keep pace with rapidly developing LegalTech trends, developers need to be able to build versatile and reliable software that they can bring to market quickly. Building innovative tools to facilitate contract negotiation and eDiscovery is challenging enough without also creating the content processing and conversion capabilities that facilitate them. That’s why LegalTech development teams under resource and time constraints frequently turn to specialized integrations that allow them to add essential features without pulling their attention away from their core area of focus. This helps them get their products to market faster to keep their customers ahead of the latest LegalTech trends.

Accusoft’s collection of powerful SDK and API integrations allows developers to build the features they need on their own terms. For instance, PrizmDoc Editor’s document assembly capabilities allow firms to automate the contract creation and editing process to minimize human error and boost efficiency. PrizmDoc Viewer’s conversion, annotation, and redaction features make it an ideal fit for eDiscovery workflows that require high levels of flexibility and security. And when it comes to managing different types of documents and files throughout the legal process, having an image processing SDK like ImageGear that can convert, compress, and OCR a broad range of file types can transform a LegalTech application into a content management powerhouse.

To learn more about how Accusoft’s collection of processing solutions can help your team meet today’s LegalTech automation challenges, talk to one of our industry specialists.