Only a few short years ago, attorneys did all of their research in law books and libraries. Today, this research has largely shifted online to databases like Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. This is just one example of how much technology has altered the legal field over the past several years.
The legal profession is continually being impacted by new technology, and its effects are only beginning to spread. Clients and attorneys both stand to benefit from this major shift in how law firms do business. Evans Agrapidis, an experienced attorney from Jersey City, New Jersey, explains how changes in technology have impacted attorneys and how they help their clients.
One of the most important steps that have furthered legal technology is digitizing regulations, statutes, and case law. Harvard Law School recently made its vast collection of case law available to the public. Technology firms have then provided statistics, stored, and aggregated information about the law in entirely new ways.
Advanced AI machines like the IBM computer Watson are being used to perform legal research. Researchers are attempting to teach Watson to interpret and understand the terminology that lawyers use to look up statutes and case law. Another firm is developing similar tech that may be able to delegate reviewing contracts to an AI. A third firm is attempting to develop an intelligent contract that alters itself based on variable sets of information.
Another popular use of AI is the chatbot which is now nearly ubiquitous on law firms’ websites. Chatbots enable visitors to ask for legal information in a natural, conversational way. The AI program behind the chatbot can respond to many simple inquiries, and it is programmed to ping a human operator if the questions are too complex. This can greatly increase the speed of having a client’s simple legal question answered, eliminating the endless back-and-forth resulting from these inquiries.
Attorney Specific Software
(ASS) has been on the rise over the last several years, and with good reason. ASS offers professional legal services a comprehensive suite of tools that enable them to better manage their clients, cases, events, documents and other important tasks. It is also an invaluable resource for understanding changes in the law as well as providing guidance on professional practice standards. In 2023, there are attorney specific CRMs, law focused email services and more.
Especially during the global pandemic, attorneys became more accustomed to meeting with their clients via Zoom instead of in their offices or their clients’ homes, notes Evans Agrapidis. Lawyers’ costs could be significantly impacted by having their staff work from home rather than from expensive office space. Meeting rooms could be rented for mediations and depositions.
Making Attorney-Client Communications Easier
Instead of traveling to a law office, a client can now interact with their attorney via web conference, voicemail, email, and instant messaging. It is easier to reach an attorney during out-of-work hours if the attorney allows it. This saves a great deal of time and money on travel expenses, especially when the lawyer and client are located in distant cities.
Searching Supporting Documents
In the past, paralegals have been tasked with the time-consuming job of going through documents looking for relevant segments. Today, many documents are digital. eDiscovery automated software can speed up the process using advanced analytics to search or categorize data for later use.
Automating Case Management
Digital platforms have evolved to meet the needs of case management. A paper file is no longer needed to answer client questions and manage files, this software automates many processes associated with case management, including scheduling, making contact lists, entering data for billing, and managing documents. Evans Agrapidis has been using the personal injury software program called Needles for case management.
This makes dealing with a law firm much smoother and less of a hassle than when only legal secretaries could handle this work. The resulting efficiency is passed along to the client.
The Rise of Legal Research Databases
In addition to databases like Lexis Nexis and Westlaw that are primarily concerned with providing statutes and laws online, other legal databases have begun to be developed that can do things like look up how often a particular judge ruled for the plaintiff versus the defendant.
Legal databases are not a substitute for the law, but they contain other information that lawyers and their clients may find helpful.
Special Security Considerations for Lawyers
The privileged attorney-client information that is held in all law offices must be protected. This means that law firms are particularly concerned with cybersecurity. Their legal obligation is to keep their client’s information safe, and they turn to robust security software and hardware to do so.
Understanding How Technology Helps Legal Clients
Technology significantly increases the speed and efficiency of a law firm, helping clients get results quicker and with more accuracy. Law firms are adopting advanced forms of technology like artificial intelligence and virtual offices. When law offices work with new technology, they can potentially reduce the costs they pass along to their clients.
Evans Agrapidis understands that change is difficult for many older attorneys. Still, they must move with the times to ensure that their clients receive the best possible services in return for their legal fees.
When tech-savvy law firms help clients, they will receive assistance in a more timely fashion and with a greater degree of accuracy. By reducing the workload on assistants and paralegals, they will be freed to work on more important considerations.