Time has seemed to fly by at a rapid pace in this first quarter of 2021. After a year filled with uncertainty and turmoil, the promise of a new beginning and a blank slate filled with endless possibilities, well — almost endless, has us thinking about the future of legal tech. While the current legal business climate is constrained due to the global health crisis we are all facing, legal tech has come roaring onto center stage to become the backbone of the industry. Sure there have been learning curves and hiccups, cat filters, and endless background disruptions, but the speed at which legal professionals embraced technology to continue their work this past year has been truly incredible to witness.
While COVID-19 has changed many things, it won’t stop the industry from moving forward and evolving to serve lawyers everywhere. Here’s what we see as the top five trends for legal tech in this “new normal.”
Having an all-in-one practice management solution will not only make law firms more efficient but will also save them money and increase their cybersecurity posture. With an ever-expanding list of tools to choose from, lawyers can easily get overwhelmed with options. Software A does task management but platform B takes care of the billing, but you can’t forget about platform C which is what you use to talk to your clients.
Integrations are fantastic but consider this – each integration also comes with its own unique issues, support teams, and pricing structures. If software A isn’t connecting properly to platform B, it could be a nightmare to troubleshoot where the actual problem lies. Working with one dedicated support team means potential downtime can be resolved swiftly.
The cost of managing multiple-point solutions also adds up month-over-month, and before you know it, you may not even remember what you’re paying for.
Using an all-in-one platform eliminates these concerns and law firms are starting to realize this to be the most cost-efficient way of implementing technology.
Online Payments Are Here To Stay
There’s a reason why last year’s Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history topping out at $10.8 billion spent. Setting aside coronavirus-weary shoppers, the convenience of paying for goods and services online has become the norm. This trend will continue to grow outside of the retail world, and end clients will increasingly expect to be able to pay online versus traditional wire transfers, physical checks, and cash.
With online payments, more and more law firms are starting to see improvements in their cash collection cycles. In fact, end clients end up paying 70% faster when offered a “pay now” button. Law firms will lose out on customers simply by making it too hard for them to pay. In 2020, we launched PantherPayments to address this gap and have gotten tremendous feedback from our customers.
Virtual Law Firms Will Continue To Grow
We may begin to sound like a broken record here, but COVID-19 has accelerated the trend of virtual law firms, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. As the name implies, a virtual law firm is one that does not have a brick & mortar location but operates completely online. Oftentimes the benefits of a virtual firm can be felt across the entire practice — from the measurable items such as reduced overhead, and a wider client base, to the intangibles of less bureaucracy, and even a better lifestyle for attorneys.
In fact, the use of technology was vital to our customers who started their own practice in the midst of the pandemic. These customers didn’t need real estate, physical document management systems, or in-house administrative support to start their boutiques, which saved them a tremendous amount in overhead and gave them the freedom to practice law on their own terms.
The U.S. Congress has even introduced a bill that calls for the expanded use of technology to improve access and transparency in federal courts, this is only the beginning of the digital lawyer. As technology becomes ever more pervasive, we will see virtual law firms continue to grow.
Accelerated Transition from Server-based to Cloud-based
As law firms return to the office, work in a hybrid capacity, or decide to remain remote, we will see more and more firms transitioning from on-premise to cloud-based solutions to run their practices. In a remote environment, firms using on-premise solutions began to face both the operational, financial, and cybersecurity challenges of managing a server-based solution.
Cloud-based software allows firms to quickly scale and implement the latest technologies without having to invest in costly physical hardware and support services. We’re proud to be pioneers of this movement in the legal space with our product Bill4Time being the first pure-SaaS legal software product when it was founded in 2006.
Law Firm Consolidation
In states like Arizona, Utah, and Washington, new laws have been passed which allow non-attorneys to own and operate law firms. This alternative business structure is “rooted in the idea that entrepreneurial lawyers and nonlawyers would pilot a range of different business forms that will ultimately improve access to justice and the delivery of legal services.” With new ownership structures, we will inevitably see investment from private equity and other owners looking to invest in and aggregate law firms.
With increased consolidation, there will be a demand for systems integrators to get newly acquired firms on common vendors, especially their software solutions.
The vaccine and medical progress at the beginning of 2021 have proven a path towards normalcy is underway, though we still face a challenging time ahead as the world continues to battle with the pandemic — but the future of legal technology continues to be bright. Sweeping changes indeed happened in the blink of an eye in 2020, though those changes seem to have jump-started trends that were lingering just below the surface and will usher in a new era of legal practices.
We, at Paradigm, are proud to be at the forefront of this evolution.