Is better technology one of your new year’s resolutions? It should be! As we enter 2019, now is a great moment to take stock of your current practices and to think about how you can best leverage technology at your legal firm. In this post, we share what we think will be the top-three legal technology trends of this year – including cybersecurity, productivity, and the cloud – and how these trends could benefit your firm.
Top 3 Legal Tech Trends for 2019
1) Increased Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity starts our list, though it’s not so much a legal tech trend as it is an unfortunate reality. A somewhat alarming position from the American Bar Association (ABA) states that security breaches against law firms are becoming so prevalent that, “it’s when, not if a law firm or other entity will suffer a breach.” According to a 2017 technology survey, also from the ABA, 22 percent of respondents reported that their firm experienced a data breach at some point, which was up from 14 percent the previous year.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Panama Papers” incident. In 2016, it was discovered that 11.5 million sensitive documents representing 2.6 terabytes of data had been copied and taken from the law firm Mossack and Fonseca, based in Panama. The firm eventually shut down due to economic and reputational damage as a result of the breach. Another recent incident was a cyberattack at DLA Piper, one of the largest legal firms in the world, which cost the firm millions of dollars in recovery costs and lost business. Small firms are no less immune from the growing risk of cyber attack.
These incidents demonstrate why cybersecurity will be such an important and continued focus in 2019. Embracing and implementing the right cybersecurity solution is the best way to mitigate the risk of an attack on your firm.
For example, in 2019, your firm has likely reached a point where you’ve moved past paper documents and physical storage toward a digital-first data environment. At the same time, in the legal industry, there is no formal standard for data security in the cloud. Which gives your firm some freedom to set up the right systems to fit your needs, but it also means that properly securing your data is as important as ever.
While traditional or cloud-based storage is an improvement over physical storage for many reasons, the migration of information to a digital or online format also opens a door for nefarious actors. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated and they’re targeting firms of all sizes, across the globe.
Robust, flexible, and multi-faceted cybersecurity solutions will help you proactively protect your business. A Legaly Tech article suggests that, “governance technology that dictates where and for how long information is stored and by whom it can be accessed will play a very important role in keeping firms protected.”
2) Process-Driven Software
Our first legal tech trend is all about security; the second one is all about productivity. This year, more and more firms will adopt new tools to increase productivity and improve profit margins. Does this sound like something your firm has identified as a priority in 2019?
Some common process-driven technologies include tools for bookkeeping and timekeeping, document automation, client communication, template management, and billing. There’s also great technologies available for legal project management, like SmartAdvocate®, a legal case management software platform with both server and cloud options.
What’s not new this year is that the right tools can improve your business. Proven software tools will help you measure and increase your efficiency, enable you to access files from anywhere, improve client and internal communication, and help you grow your business.
But now imagine if you had a separate tool, password, vendor, and support team for every tool or platform you used. It’s an onerous scenario that could decrease productivity (and increase frustration) at your firm. Which is exactly why we’re seeing a trend this year toward consolidation of different tools into a single, unified platform.
While your firm might have opted for best-in-breed tools in the past, finding a single, connected platform that replaces stand-alone tools will result in a more streamlined, productive, and cost-effective infrastructure. You’ve likely encountered vendors or salespeople that would agree with this, too!
3) Move to the Cloud
Last but not least, a third legal tech trend for 2019 is a shift to cloud-based technologies. As a refresher, the concept of cloud technology is the use of software or services over the internet via a browser or mobile app. In this way, your firm’s information is stored on remote servers, rather than a local computer or hard drive.
Key benefits of the cloud may include speed, scalability, cost-efficiency, and better support. (Please see this post for more about the pros and cons of traditional versus cloud-based services.)
One benefit of cloud technology is its elasticity. Shifting some processes or applications to the cloud lets your firm expand or contract your IT infrastructure based on your needs at that time. Meaning that, with the cloud, you can pay for and use what you need when you need it, to save time and resources.
As compared with other professions, the legal industry as a whole has lagged a bit in moving toward the cloud. The American Bar Association reports that while cloud computing is popular, there “has not been a sea change in the legal profession” although it is increasing. A 2018 survey reports that cloud usage rose 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. Interestingly, single and small firms lead the way in adoption toward cloud-based technologies.
We predict that more firms will make the move in 2019 as more applications move to the cloud. Many core legal applications are either migrating to the cloud or at least offering a cloud-based option, including popular tools like SmartAdvocate® or iManage Work 10.
There are, of course, many other legal tech trends to keep an eye on this year. One is a focus on mobile applications, which enable your team to work from anywhere with a data connection. Another trend is likely to be artificial intelligence, an expansive technology that could be used for legal research or data analysis, to identify common tactics from opposing counsel, or even to map predispositions of judges.
Looking at the Year Ahead
What trends and technologies will you adopt this year? While this will vary from firm to another, one thing is certain: You deal with a lot of data, especially as your firm grows or expands into new practice areas. The right technologies, coupled with smart security and expert support, will help you stay safe. One of the best ways to leverage the top tech trends this year is to partner with a third-party expert, especially if you have limited in-house IT resources.
For example, when it comes to cybersecurity, a firm like N8 Solutions can help you block intrusions before they even happen with customized and robust desktop, internet, and infrastructure security. And, with any sort of unified platform improvement or migration to the cloud, we take a tailored approach to consider all internal and external factors and deliver a result that truly benefits your business. In short, we can help you figure out what tools will be the most advantageous for your firm in a way that keeps you safe, secure, and scalable.
Further, we know law firms. We’re experts at legal case management platforms and are available to help with any SmartAdvocate® migration or installation, from set-up to long-term monitoring and support.
This year, if you take away one thing, perhaps it’s this piece of advice from the American Bar Association: “Effective security is an ongoing process, not just a “set it and forget it” effort.”
Please get in touch with us today to talk about your top legal tech trends and cybersecurity needs this year. Here’s to a great 2019!