To compete in today’s world, law firms must provide exceptional and prompt client service delivery—which requires that comprehensive case, subject matter and other relevant information be available at their fingertips.
However, searching across disparate systems for subject matter expertise, related content, and case research tops the list of wasted, unbilled work. Unbillable work not only affects partners’ and the firm’s profitability; it also affects your ability to keep up with growing competition from other firms or alternative legal service providers.
This is having a worrying impact; a new survey suggests that many law firms are losing millions in revenue in billable work. More than 40% of fee-earners spent 35%-plus of their time on non-billable duties while 70% spent at least one-fifth of their time on work that they could simply never charge to a client. Some of this non-productive time could in fact be captured if they were able to abandon some routine tasks in favour of automation.
Systemic reliance on inefficient processes not only reduces productivity – adding to associates’ already long hours and stress - manual processes literally take money out of the firm’s pockets. Yet information is a law firm’s lifeblood: finding comprehensive know how and precedents for relevant case law and subject matter expertise, seeing how a court ruled in a similar case to better estimate cost and timelines, developing case strategy that investigates win-loss rates of lawyers before specific judges prior to creating a bid team, to building a “who knows who” system or expert directory. All of this is necessary to compete.
With this in mind, here are four key ways enterprise search and insights technology can help improve the day to day knowledge management activities for lawyers, while also increasing revenue.
To be able to respond faster to prospective and current clients, law firms need to be able to quickly gather information from all sorts of different knowledge and information sources.
Enterprise search technology can locate relevant knowledge in seconds from across an organisation’s disparate data stores - even sources users may not always think of – including the document management system, practice and case management systems, the HR system or lawyer profiles and biographies, file shares, intranets, portals and more.
A metadata approach is the foundation on which search applications can be automated, and relevant matter information can be identified in moments from across millions of records, with AI-powered search that literally crawls and indexes information stored across a firm’s disparate data sources and repositories.
Demonstrating a track record of success and expertise is critical for supporting existing clients and securing new ones. Enterprise search technology can rapidly surface relevant content along with subject matter experts and relationship insights that go far beyond biographies. Lawyers and their staff do not need to memorise query formats or language—they need just enter any free formatted text into a search window and hit enter. Millions of documents can be scanned in seconds, cross-referencing content such as document authors and case documents.
To make the results usable to the lawyer, however, they need to be easily digestible, otherwise more time is sucked in to making sense of all that information. With visualisation tools to automatically transform data into insights, quicker case decision making is possible. Abstract information and the relationships between pieces of information can be visualised to allow legal practitioners to access new insights at a glance.
For example, when pitching to a client, practice areas can put together the right team of experts quickly and visually. By searching a client for which work has been done in the past, knowledge managers overseeing pricing strategies can see the full list of relevant lawyers and their matters within the firm as well as the authored documents they have created. With knowledge graph capabilities, users can tie documents back to the experts (authors) along with relevant locations and practice areas.
Law firms are notorious for storing legacy information. But as more documents are generated, disorganised data makes it more difficult for lawyers to find relevant information when needed. Enterprise search technology can free up more time by identifying and classifying both legacy and new information from external sources, using classification and AI-assisted filing to maintain accuracy of information across a firm’s systems.
Another way technology can free up more time for billable client work is automating document profiling. Filing documents and incoming mail daily according to their content is an unnecessarily time-consuming task. By utilising meta-data, created through manual tasks like document profiling, naming and tagging can be expedited with the programme suggesting inputs. This also makes the classification of documents clearer, which will allow for more effective enterprise search in the future and also aid cross team collaboration.
In order to stay competitive in the market, looking ahead to 2022 now is an important time to review your technology stack and embrace the potential of enterprise search and insights technology based on metadata, AI and machine learning to help free up your people to really do the work that excites them, adds value and is billable. This will help futureproof your firm.
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