During a legaltech panel discussion hosted by Women in Wills on Thursday, it was suggested that up to 40% of firms are receiving a discount on their professional indemnity insurance (PII) renewal due to their adoption of legaltech.
The panel consisted of Rob Hosier, Sarah Keegan, Emma Baddaley and Pippa Shepherd, focusing on three key areas: technology and process; culture; and communication.
Knowing where to start when searching for legaltech
Rob Hosier, Executive Board Member of the UK Legal Technology Association (UKLTA) and founding Director of inCase, began by admitting that knowing what legaltech to go for is “challenging”, and that this applies to “every layer of legal service businesses. Not just those at the top, but all the way down”. He continued:
“Look to an organisation like the UKLTA who will help you with the procurement and investment of technology. You can’t go wrong, especially with the suppliers’ charter. Suppliers have to agree to certain things to sell tech in legal space.”
He also stressed the importance of investing in future-proof technology, though admitting that doing so is challenging as we “do not know what is round the corner”:
“Look at not just what challenges exist now, but what your challenges will be in a couple of years. Too many firms buy technology which is not future-proof. Choose a provider who’s there for the long run.”
Pippa Shepherd, Head of Customer Engagement at Arken.legal, seconded Hosier’s sentiment, adding:
“Don’t do something for yesterday. Look forward. Look to add value. Where can you improve, add efficiency, and solve things?”
Other recommendations made by Hosier included picking technology that makes clients and staff happier:
“Judge adoption of tech based on those two metrics. This leads to more efficiency and less pressure, therefore a stronger business.”
In line with this, an in-meeting poll found that the biggest challenge facing firms is staff resource. Hosier said that every firm he deals with says the same: pressure on staff, pressure within the market, volume expectations. He spoke of a need to preserve staff to ensure a long-term career and avoid burnout.
How technology can make practitioners’ lives easier – and more profitable
Shepherd described practitioners being “afraid” of tech in the office, with Hosier describing the risk involved in the job as “tenfold” what it was five or ten years ago, with much of this added risk coming from technology itself.
It is, however, technology that will help reduce that risk, said Hosier. As well as this, Shepherd explained how technology can make practitioners and firms more profitable by freeing up fee-earners’ time and reducing requirements for administrative staff:
“The benefits of tech are multi-fold. when we’re looking at fee earners and how many hours you can bill, freeing up time by speeding up admin using tech can allow you to get more out of your time, and reduce need for administrative resources.”
Sharing Shepherd’s view, Hosier gave another key way in which technology can reduce costs for firms: PII premiums.
“We often speak to each other on email, yet this is the least secure method of communication with clients. On PII renewals, 30-40% of firms [in our latest review] got a discount because of the tech they’re using. Yet, some struggled to even obtain cover due to the lack of tech. Have an honest conversation with suppliers. They may help you with your renewals. Get as much data and detail as you can for your renewal.”
Achieving the full potential of your technology
On how to ensure legaltech is implemented properly to achieve its full benefit, Sarah Keegan, lawyer, legal engineer, and co-founder of the CS Partnership, said:
“It comes down to a number of things. It’s all very well that thr head of department buys into it, but it often stops there. It works best if you ensure you engage your entire team. They must understand the issues you’re trying to solve. Then, embed this into policy and processes. Is everyone engaged and using it, and do they have an account? Add it into client T&Cs and internal processes.”
Keegan went on to refer to the adoption of technology in the property market – despite her estimations being refuted by other panel members – as an example for how those in the wills and probate industry should approach things:
“In conveyancing, they’ve adopted a set of practices around using tech that almost every conveyancer uses in every process. Probate is trying to follow this. People need to understand why they’re doing it and what they get out of it.
It’s not, however, an overnight process. This is why communication and feedback are important to ensure this works. Lawyers are highly suspicious and autonomous beasts who don’t like being told they are wrong. Human behaviour takes a while to change. All solicitors are trained in slightly different ways. Have the conversations and embed the processes.”
“Our current processes work just fine.” Really?
Emma Baddaley, Strategic Relationship Director at Estatesearch, explained her approach to this mindset.
“It’s multifaceted. What tends to happen is when they say this, they don’t actually have a process. They just don’t want to change. It’s almost an epiphany sometimes with wills and probate lawyers: they need to have a process. In wills and probate, technology is demonstrating that there is a process. We overcome this objection by asking ‘let us demonstrate why your current way of doing things doesn’t work’. Having an opportunity to get in front of the team means you can drive knowledge forward about their pitfalls, educate them, they then come to understand there are lots of areas they haven’t even thought about.”
Keegan echoed Baddaley:
“I love helping people adapt to change. People doing things the way they always have done is rife. Not much has changed since the Law of Property Act 1925. People haven’t changed. This is often to do with fear – ‘if I’m shown this tech that everyone around me uses but I can’t, I’ll look stupid’.”
Shepherd went on to recount one CEO whose mindset epitomised why this mindset is not ideal:
“I used to work for a CEO whose phrase was: ‘if it ain’t broke, break it’. Always have a view and eye on the future.”
How to utilise Generation Z
“The more you’ve grown up with tech, the better you are at it”, said Shepherd. She went on to explain the usefulness of this to firms:
“It’s amazing how quickly Gen Zs pick up technology and get on with it. A lot of our clients use the Gen Z to research this tech and see what they can do. Or indeed, Gen Z are the ones requesting it from within the firm! Also, when recruiting new staff, they’re looking for things to make their life easier, they’re looking for work life balances. Use them to drive the adoption of tech in your organisation. When recruiting, make your firm attractive to this younger generation.”
Fail to plan, plan to fail
The speakers concluded the discussion by assessing the “disconnect” between consumers and the way in which legal services are delivered. Keegan said:
“It’s something we’ve always seen with lawyers. It’s the way we do things and communicate. We spend a lot of time making sure we don’t mess up. Most clients don’t understand judgments coming from courts/tribunals, and they don’t fully understand content of letters. We don’t give advice to clients in plain English in the way they need to hear it. One advantage of automation is that it stops practitioners being busy for busy’s sake. This gives time to have meetings, speak with clients etc.”
“There are businesses that design services from a non-consumer perspective. There’s a disconnect. We need to think what the client journey is and what their experience of it is. Clients need instant gratification of info, yet we don’t generally provide a service adapted to this.
We’re living in a digital world and the pandemic has sped this up. Gone are the days you can choose what message to give clients. Gen Z/X are the clients of the future and will inherit £1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. They’re having key life events. They’re glued to phones. They don’t want to wait 4/5 days.”
Shepherd concluded that the service needs to adapt to this:
“There are new services and new entrants to the market. Love it or hate it, they’re there. Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
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