The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted multiple industries, including healthcare, travel, financial welfare and political stability of nations across the globe. All thanks to the movement restrictions earlier, law organizations have also not been immune to the brunt of it, many M&A transactions are on hold and courts are closed. Just like most of the world, law firms have also made the transition to a work-from-home environment, depending more than ever on technology to drive efficiency and connect employees. The transition to the digital environment has been easier for organizations that had already invested in technology solutions and collaboration tools over the last few years. However, the legal industry in general lags in technology adoption as compared to general business but Coronavirus has lead to a digital transformation.
According to a recent article in a leading daily, post the onset of this digitalisation the traditional law firm offices are on its way out. Most of them are no longer able to compete with virtual legal practices and freelance lawyers. So much so that virtual law offices have become more successful than traditional law offices as they require low start-up costs and are often comprised of young attorneys with expansive knowledge of technology and the internet. The former is evidenced by the recent bankruptcy filings of several traditional, old law firms. Dewey & LeBoeuf, Howrey & Simon, Heller Ehrman and the Coudert Brothers are just a few of the law firms that have filed for bankruptcy as a result of a change in the legal market.
As we head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, industries are becoming more and more impacted by digital transformation – law is one of them. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and big data are changing the way businesses work and streamlining operations. Over the past few years, AI has been proving extremely useful in the legal industry by making legal research more efficient. The use of robotic process automation (RPA) also helps streamline law operations by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as drafting contracts and preparing documents.
Chatbots – which are bots based on artificial intelligence – are also helping law firms with their customer service operations. Through these chatbots, they can offer customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week on legal matters. According to The Law Society in the UK, the legal sector are also using chatbots in ways such as access to justice, where “some chatbots have been designed to help individuals with a legal problem who are unable to ask a lawyer (or whose issue would not be worth even the most modest legal fee).”
Cybersecurity is another important aspect of technology that law firms must take note of, as client information security and confidentiality must be adhered to in the legal industry to maintain attorney-client privilege.
Therefore, upskilling and reskilling lawyers and legal professionals in these new technologies are essential for law firms and businesses to thrive in an era of digital transformation, especially post-COVID-19 as remote working becomes the new norm.
With the rise of online learning in the past few months, law firms can quickly get up to speed with the latest technologies and upskill their workforce. Legal professionals can sign up for online courses in Ethics and Law in Data and Analytics as well as Artificial Intelligence and the Law. There are also a number of Cybersecurity Law and Policy online courses for legal professionals to upskill in this area, one of the fastest-growing areas in law.
Digital transformation is here to stay in 2020 and is revolutionising the law industry. Upskill now to ensure you don’t get left behind, especially at the rapid rate that technology is advancing.