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Adversity into opportunity: transforming the legal sector’s view of IT

legal-blog-apr20 Adversity into opportunity: transforming the legal sector’s view of IT
It's impossible to overstate the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses throughout the UK, forcing organisations to rethink their approaches to work, and – in many cases – redesign their infrastructures to accommodate the Government's new requirements for remote working. The legal sector is no different, but has been hit especially hard, due to the preponderance of cumbersome legacy systems that need to be migrated and updated, and a generally slow rate of digital transformation across the entire industry.

However, while the challenges are considerable, this represents the ideal time for the legal sector to continue accelerating its process of digital transformation, and emerge from this crisis not only intact, but with a newfound level of agility, scalability and digital security. We've already seen this happening within several firms, in response to the current pandemic. In particular, the following trends offer clues to the way forward… 

Learning from our home working experiences

Working from home has been steadily on the rise for a number of years now, with a 2016 report indicating that 43% of the global workforce was doing so at least part of the time(1). But the current pandemic has seen organisations worldwide rapidly implement the practice out of pure necessity. Indeed, we've already seen this first-hand at Exponential-e, helping multiple organisations (including several in the legal sector) roll out effective remote working solutions in a matter of days.

This isn't just a question of how law firms allow their own staff to work. It also presents a range of opportunities for firms to deliver their services remotely in the future, opening them up to new locations and new clients, with more effective collaboration between firms and corporate legal teams. FisherBroyles have already demonstrated the potential of this new model, which bodes well for the wider sector. The challenge then, is how to best achieve this type of transformation, for which we would argue collaboration is key.

Building strong partnerships with the right specialists

Traditionally, legal firms have tended towards relying primarily on internal expertise, but a key part of the digital transformation process is supporting teams' existing skills with those of external specialists. A recent report by Gartner anticipated that by 2022, the lack of internal IaaS capabilities will be the factor holding back organisations' digital transformations(2). This is where the value of a strong partnership really becomes clear, and why Exponential-e, beyond simply serving as a provider of Cloud and Unified Communications services, works closely with legal firms to ensure their transformations provide not only immediate, short-term benefits, but a strong foundation on which to build, as they continue to evolve.

In particular, the biggest obstacle to beginning this sort of company-wide transformation is time. Legal firms are dynamic, rapidly evolving environments, and are unlikely to be in a position to put their day-to-day business on hold for the sake of an IT project, regardless of the potential benefits. Delegating the implementation of new IT solutions allows their firms to take advantage of their expertise, remaining focused on their core business. As we mentioned above, Exponential-e teams have rolled out first-class remote working solutions for a number of legal firms in a matter of days, supporting this with tailored training sessions when necessary. Not only does this approach ensure a swift implementation, it allows firms to benefit from their partners' own SLAs, passing that peace of mind on to their customers, and also maximises uptake of the new technology amongst staff – a major concern when working with multi-generational teams. 

While these efforts have focused on our Communications solutions, in light of the current pandemic, there is no reason that the same approach cannot be taken to implement other technologies within the legal sector, particularly the Cloud… 

Stepping into the Cloud

At this point in time, the advantages of Cloud migration – either a full-scale migration or the implementation of hybrid Cloud concepts – are well-established. However, the legal sector has traditionally been reluctant to embrace Cloud computing. There are numerous reasons for this, not least that the technology most useful to the sector (i.e. machine learning and automatic document processing) has been relatively slow to mature. However, as these technologies have come of age, the Cloud is now a key part of any successful digital transformation. 

With this in mind, the Cloud is an obvious asset for legal firms. With its optimal scalability and flexibility, teams are free to develop their infrastructure in a controlled, intelligent way, while automating many of the time-consuming, manual tasks that typically occupy much of their time, and broadening the range of accessible expertise without a costly and time-consuming hiring process.

Beyond the obvious benefits to efficiency and workplace morale, this provides legal firms with the opportunity to refocus and prioritise, devoting additional time and resources to the areas that differentiate them from the competition. With the right partnerships in place, this process will only become faster.

For more on how the evolving digital landscape is impacting the legal sector, please refer to our latest white paper, The Winning Strategy for Legal Digital Transformation.

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