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How Law Firms Can Use Technology to Be More Customer-Centric

SaschaThe COVID-19 pandemic has removed any doubt that for firms to remain competitive in 2021, they must embrace and invest in technology that will better serve the customer and reduce costs. Despite a historic resistance to change, the profession was already feeling the heat pre-pandemic as technology giants have set a new standard for customer communication and transparency. These redefined customer expectations cut across all industries — not just big tech.

A Forrester report calls it the “Age of the Customer” — a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to become more customer facing. This approach is driven by the idea that, “the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.”

And while many legal professionals support the shift towards more innovation to better serve and support clients, a recent report by Thompson Hine  indicates little to no progress with 69% of respondents reporting that their law firms have not increased their levels of innovation at all this past year — a staggering number given the technology demands created by the pandemic.

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The data indicates that many law firms are still struggling — on a variety of levels — to truly embrace technology in support of the customer-centric paradigm. Some firms are challenged with internal resistance to change, others are unsure of which technologies to choose, and everyone is rightfully concerned about security, as clients continue to demand for more speed and personalized service.

Technology tools shaping the legal industry today

While it’s true that the latest in legal technology remains in the hands of large corporations and wealthy individuals, the pandemic has forced courts around the nation to quickly embrace technology or risk the wheels of justice coming to a grinding halt. Ultimately, it will likely be the courts that lead the way for widespread legal technology adoption throughout the industry as firms follow suit to keep up.

That said, there are many legal technology tools available today that make the legal process faster, freeing up existing staff so attorneys can focus on satisfying clients and winning cases. 

It’s simply not necessary to continue managing everything manually when such tools are available. Firms today have access to a bevy of solutions such as videoconferencing, virtual notaries, digital documents, e-signatures and law practice management software that have become widespread. These are just a few of the ways firms are boosting operational efficiency while simultaneously improving customer satisfaction and retention. The value is there, including a much faster way to move through documents and get more work turned around. 

Legal technology tools are built for speed, quality and efficiency using big data systems as a foundation. The most mundane tasks are being automated and improved to save time, reduce costs and eliminate human error, such as e-filing, service of process, skip tracing, and appearance counsel.

Indeed, much like personal, cloud-based transportation networks connect available drivers with passengers in need of a ride via a lightweight user-friendly smartphone app, legal technology solutions such as service of process and appearance counsel connect process servers and qualified attorneys with clients across the country in search of those very services.

Proprietary software locates available candidates and generally offers a selection of options. The price is set and paid in advance. Because the user's credit card is linked to their account, no cash changes hands. Updates are provided digitally and receipts sent via email, with links to options for rating the service provider.

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Much like Uber drivers use their own vehicles and enjoy a high earning potential with a flexible work schedule, independent process servers and attorneys operate in much the same way, using technology to increase business.

With its nationwide network of 10,000 FDCPA trained, experienced attorneys, ABC Legal is one of the solutions that has drastically increased access to legal support and is able to offer access to court representation in a variety of venues. Appearance counsel is yet another tool saving clients time, money and lost productivity.

Additionally, the quick, compliant and accurate service of process delivered via innovations in technology helps firms deliver reliable service across all jurisdictions, both nationwide and abroad. These fully transparent services provide visibility throughout the entire process, offering clients and legal professionals real-time access into case statuses as well as the flexibility to upload pictures, provide proof of residency, and co-resident proof of service. Clients get a tailored, customized experience through mobile apps and unique user-friendly customer dashboards.

E-filing — another powerful legal tool growing in popularity and now available in nearly half the United States — integrates advanced API into court systems, which enables faster filing of documents with full compliance and a faster acceptance rate. ABC Legal, for instance, has successfully filed more than 3 million documents, averaging 60,000 e-filings per month, including case initiation documents, alias summons, amended complaints, wage garnishments, stipulation packages, motions and orders, and proofs of service.

The use of proprietary algorithms in legal services is also helping evolve skip tracing by providing fast and highly accurate results on all instant and pre-skip requests. Legal IT teams and providers that can offer unique technology integrated with other third-party services will help provide access to a broad spectrum of information necessary to locate even the hardest to find individuals. This automation helps reduce time spent on tasks that used to take hours.

Finally, automated by AI technologies, venue selection processes are also evolving and improving collaboration with court clerks by providing clear mapping of jurisdictional boundaries, state by state. Legal professionals can take advantage of AI-powered venue selection tools to secure the right location based on defendant location and the amount of the lawsuit. 

What the future holds for legal tech

Some of the most intelligent tools currently being deployed across the legal field are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These innovative tools are built to discover patterns and correlations within massive amounts of data that the human eye is incapable of detecting without significant time and experience. This technology is being used in various ways, such as identifying tasks and workflows that need to be initiated, as well as populating common documents and contracts, saving lawyers valuable time.

For instance, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a fairly simple technology that allows anyone to configure computer software, or a “robot” to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to complete a business process. RPA robots use the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like people do by interpreting data, triggering responses and communicating with other systems in order to perform a wide variety of repetitive tasks, sans human error.

Additionally, Application Programming Interface (API) — a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other — is helping many legal professionals end the manual process of taking data from one system and moving it to another because the systems aren’t integrated.

These are just a few of the innovative technologies being used to make the legal profession improve efficiency, while also meeting customer and client needs.

Sascha Mehlhase is the vice president of growth at ABC Legal Services. Sascha oversees ABC Legal’s growing product, marketing and customer experience teams in transforming ABC Legal into the best-in-class technology and service industry leader, while simultaneously finding new avenues to scale. With nearly 20 years of product and marketing experience in software and technology, Sascha has advanced product strategies and led global teams in a variety of industries. Most recently, as senior director of product management at Intrado Sascha oversaw their cloud-based telecom and communications platform as a service business and drove the company’s international product expansion into more than 170 countries. Sascha earned an MBA from Loyola University, Chicago and a B.A. in Social Economics from Hamburg University, Germany.
 

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