How will data and analytics change the legal sector?

Technology in the legal sector
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This article is based on an interview with Alyson Reeves, Director at PwC Consulting and an expert on change in the legal sector.

The world is changing rapidly and every sector is undergoing disruption brought about by technological change. This is particularly disruptive in traditional sectors, such as legal.

Data and analytics are affecting all parts of the legal business, from client delivery to winning work. In this article we explore Alyson’s ideas on how data and analytics will affect these areas. When we use the first person, these are Alyson's thoughts, not HRZone's.

Winning work

Professional services firms must do checks - like money laundering and conflict checks - to make sure they can work with prospects. These present a problem because they typically need to happen just as these prospects urgently need legal help.

Simplifying and automating these checks would allow law firms to take on business faster. Most of the data is available digitally anyway, but the processing takes place manually.

Pricing tools could also get more intelligent. Pricing is in law firms is an art. It’s very experience-based and if you’re a very experienced lawyer, that’s great, but if you’re not then pricing can be difficult.

I can see automated pricing tools that price quickly and accurately in a sophisticated way, learning from previous jobs the law firm has done.

Being able to have really good access to precedents, best practice etc would really make a difference to the speed of service delivery.

I can also imagine tools that semi-automate the creation of proposals and engagement contracts and also semi-automate the collaborative workflow with clients to agree the final terms of engagement more quickly.

Finally, in terms of looking for opportunities, there’s automated intelligence market scanning, which gives law firms insight in what happens in clients’ sectors, so they can proactively spot opportunities and take them to clients.

Discovery, diligence and legal service delivery

This is the heartland of where we see digital disruption in the legal sector being reported in the press and represents a real shift in how legal firms deliver their services.

What we’re talking about here is AI learning to do structured and unstructured data analysis.

A huge amount of what law firms do is absorb massive amounts of structured and unstructured data and analyse that data and look for patterns and important points in that data that support an argument.

Automating this could hugely accelerate the way they do their work and come up with material points of interest. AI smart visualisation could also really help lawyers to see and absorb this vast quantity of structured and unstructured data.

Within legal service delivery,  I think there’s probably some acceleration of knowledge sharing here too: knowledge management is always tricky in law firms, but being able to have really good access to precedents, best practice etc would really make a difference to the speed of service delivery.

Another area is semi-automated document drafting, which could potentially be offered to clients as a service, and would change the ways services are delivered to clients.

For example, clients could create their own documents using semi-automated systems which are then delivered to the law firm for quality checking.

Completion and closeout

I can see there being investment into collaborative platforms with clients, so towards the end of the engagement clients are able to see progress, time that has been clocked up, key documents etc all in a single platform, rather than in emails. There is also likely to be automation of closeout tasks, plus semi-automated time recording.

I can see automated pricing tools that price quickly and accurately in a sophisticated way, learning from previous jobs the law firm has done.

Time recording and billing are always difficult in law firms - they are hugely time consuming and more complicated than they feel like they need to be.

Semi-automated time recording, based on calendars and diaries and time spent in certain applications, would really make an improvement.

If you then coupled this with intelligent billing engines, you could both speed up billing and improve what’s called narrative, which is the way legal firms have to describe how they’re spending their time.

In terms of knowledge management, automated knowledge management capture could, at the end of each case, automatically analyse and redact materials where necessary and then put the documents into the knowledge store to be used when necessary in the future.

A final area is client feedback, which isn’t really systemised in a lot of law firms.

They are close to their clients, but proper stepping back and reviewing in a semi-independent way isn’t really something that’s commonplace in a lot of firms.

Introducing client feedback analytics and that being routinely captured in an automated way would be very appealing.

About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, HRZone

Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.

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