09 August 2019

Law firms open to change...sort of

Survey correlates change management and partner buy-in with law firm efficiency, but highlights some surprising findings on tech adoption.

By Dr David Cowan

Robots need not apply...yet! Shutterstock

The Study finds strong correlation between law firm openness toward change management and operational efficiency, but suggests firms are slow on cloud migration and wary of AI hype and prospect of robot lawyers.

“Doing things differently”

The results of the ‘2019 Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey,’ undertaken by business management software for law provider Aderant, focuses on respondents holding allied professional titles or positions related to the business of law and legal technology in law firms, roles other than that of a practicing lawyer. Chief among the results is that most law firms believe this year is at least as good as last year. However, those firms that find it easier to obtain partner buy-in for projects central to law firm innovation are more likely to say they are having a better year. The survey surfaced a connection among intangibles like leadership and management of change, to the downstream effects on the business of law. “There does appear to be a link between law firms that are open to the possibilities of doing things differently and the efficiency that can be gained across law firm business processes,” says Aderant executive vice president Chris Cartrett. “Multiple studies have suggested law firms that outperform the market are doing it by taking market share from other firms. In our assessment, this survey presents a strong correlation between a law firm’s willingness to embrace change - including innovative tools such as cloud technology - that lends the capacity for that higher level of performance.”

Surprising findings

The top challenges facing firms are operational efficiency (31 percent) and pricing (29 percent) are the top challenges facing law firms in 2019. Pricing has ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 challenge in all three years Aderant has fielded this survey. Surprisingly, given the attention paid to the issue, cybersecurity dropped to seventh place with 18 percent, down from second place last year. Rounding out the top five challenges are technology adoption (26 percent), change management (22 percent) and growing business from existing client accounts (19 percent). The study showed cloud migration may be somewhat on the glocial side, with 74 percent of respondents are slightly or somewhat on the cloud, and only 2 percent of respondents reported being completely in the cloud. These firms, both large and small in size, utilize the cloud with storing data, hosting applications, or using cloud-based tools. In the future, 34 percent of firms are open to moving to the cloud, and only 1 percent refused. Respondents said fundamental tools like document management and time and billing have the greatest impact on their firm. Also a surprise, much hyped concepts like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain ranked last out of 18 possible choices. Lastly, anyone in fear of robots replacing human lawyers need not panic, only 5 percent listed “technology replacing attorneys” as their biggest competitive threat....for now! A copy of the full report (PDF) can be found here.

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