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Improving Collaboration With Legal Technology

by Maryam Khan

case management software, practice management software, legal accounting software, legaltech, technology for lawyers, case management, immigration, london, united kingdom

Collaboration involves people or organizations working together to achieve a shared goal or common purpose. Enjoying the process of collaboration and the ability to successfully collaborate with lawyers and clients is a very important skill for lawyers to have due to the nature of their work. Completing a deal or a transaction normally involves the collective effort of multiple departments within an in-house corporate department or the multidisciplinary approach taken by international law firms. This also includes the involvement of legal secretaries, paralegals and document review assistants. Therefore, It is very unlikely for a lawyer to complete a project without the support of other teams within the firm, making collaboration extremely important to work more efficiently and provide excellent client service. 

The increase in demand for hybrid working following the pandemic has made collaboration within a law firm even more important. When working remotely, law firms become siloed with poor communication between different departments, leading to missed opportunities, deadlines, and disappointed clients [1]. Law firms must ensure the highest level of collaboration and communication within their practice, internally and externally, with courts and clients to avoid losing out on business [2]. Investing in the right legal technology solutions can help adapt to changing circumstances to ensure that collaboration is never compromised and workflow runs smoothly.

How can legal technology make collaboration easier?

Creating and managing a collaborative and efficient legal team is challenging for both law firms and in-house legal departments. Low productivity and collaboration levels negatively impact businesses in terms of profitability, quality of work and employee engagement [3]. It is becoming more difficult to increase overall organizational performance without using technology, especially during the pandemic. 

Bloomberg Law recently released the results of a survey highlighting an increase in law firm collaboration tools during the pandemic [4]. The law firms surveyed were asked about the use of their team collaboration tools in March, where 19% of in-house legal departments respondents and 27% of law firm respondents stated they were using such tools. However, in July, 77% of in-house legal department respondents and 44% of law firm respondents stated they were using such tools [5]. This highlights the importance of using technology to increase collaboration in the legal sector and how leveraging these benefits is increasingly becoming a priority for law firm management.

Greater Transparency With Task Management Software

Task management software is used to manage all employee tasks. Such software also helps in estimating whether a project will be completed by a deadline, scheduling, tracking milestones and also helps with time management [6]. Using specialised software avoids having to resort to email to keep track of incoming tasks, which can be quite inefficient as emails can be lost or sent to the wrong person. While task management and task delegation software caters to managing individual and personal activities, it still facilitates collaboration as the task manager for a specific project is visible to all, meaning everyone can see who is working on what [7]. This increased transparency ensures no miscommunication or confusion regarding task allocation and provides comfort to senior lawyers who are overseeing projects as they are always kept updated and have a visual representation of the project’s progress.

Increased Organisation with Project Management Software

Law firms use project management tools to establish workflows and meet deadlines while considering any resource or time constraints [8]. Law firm project management software organises all matters, cases and client information in an extremely comprehensive way which improves the level of collaboration on a project as lawyers can easily access information and have multi-access to resources. Unlike task management software, which is more focused on organising individual tasks, law firm resource management tools and case management systems significantly enhance a law firm’s productivity and collaboration by allowing project managers to evenly distribute tasks to multiple lawyers working on a big project. This aspect takes care of having to spend time managing and supervising each lawyer’s task as everyone’s work and progress are tracked in one centralised system [9].

Leveraging Time Tracking Tools

While some lawyers may believe that time tracking their employees is a complicated process that can be an administrative burden and a form of micromanagement, there is little truth to this [10]. If implemented correctly, time tracking employees using law firm time management or time recording software takes very little time and can be very useful for team managers. Those in charge can successfully manage their teams, resulting in a higher level of collaboration by acting on insights and data highlighted by the software. Having an organised system reduces the overall stress a team may be experiencing, allowing them to enhance collaboration and improve performance [11]. Moreover, keeping track of things and measuring several aspects of a law firm’s business or its key performance indicators allows law firm management to improve workflow. This requires data regarding employee workload, capacity and departmental strengths and weaknesses. Having access to such data provides law firms with an overview of their resources which can be referred to when delegating tasks to shift the workload from overburdened employees, which encourages greater communication and collaboration [12].

Greater Communication with Client Portals

Collaboration is not only important between lawyers and their colleagues but also between a law firm and its clients. Client communication portals allow lawyers to share and receive information and updates on their work with their clients in real-time [13]. Emails are becoming inherently unreliable to communicate with clients due to the risks of sending confidential information and the overall lack of encryption [14]. Client portals offer a range of benefits that make them a far greater tool to communicate with clients. These include the ability to share data securely and conveniently, enabling greater access to data information sharing at any point in time regardless of the client or lawyer’s location [15]. Moreover, the real-time communication that client portals offer is crucial for clients, ensuring clients are always kept updated and eliminating the risks of any delays occurring. Other features include instant messaging and client call back requests, increasing communication and collaboration, and making the firm more accessible as the client’s lawyers are only one phone call away.

Greater Convenience in Flexible Working

A major priority for law firms and their clients is facilitating hybrid meetings successfully. This requires incorporating technology and meeting etiquettes that create an engaging and productive hybrid meeting experience [16]. If not executed properly, hybrid meetings can lack engagement and be counterproductive. Therefore, it is important for law firms to use this time effectively to ensure greater collaboration and communication when attending hybrid meetings with some people working from home and some from the office. Doing so requires the use of sophisticated video and audio technology. There should be a certain level of collaboration in such meetings when collectively reviewing documents, such as smart boardroom technology and shared applications [17]. This enables those physically present in boardrooms to participate in Teams meetings with those in a different office or is attending the meeting remotely [18]. Hybrid meetings are now where deals are negotiated and director meetings are held, making it extremely important for law firms and in-house corporate legal departments to have the right tools and resources available to ensure they run smoothly.

Greater Access to Information via Cloud Storage

Enabling greater collaboration within a law firm means ensuring that every employee has access to shared resources. A key way to improve collaboration is by making legal information accessible to those who can benefit from it and work more efficiently [19]. Without easy access to information, more time is spent chasing colleagues to send over documents or retrieving information for other colleagues. This causes further delays and more time spent on administrative tasks. The best way to avoid these issues and increase collaboration is by storing documents and law firm data in a secure, centralised, cloud-based management system where law firms can manage control and access settings to make information more securely accessible [20]. Moreover, through a cloud based collaboration, lawyers of all levels can freely exchange ideas, communicate and work together without worrying about only sharing information on a strict need-to-know basis. This is better for junior employees as they can get more involved in high-value transactions and learn from more experienced lawyers.

Why is improving collaboration important?

The level of internal and external collaboration in a law firm is directly proportional to profitability. A recent webinar hosted by Thomson Reuters and Acritas in ‘The 2022 Dynamic Law Firms Report’ discussed improving collaboration to maximize a law firm’s share in their clients’ legal spending. Their analysis highlighted that law firm collaboration could result in significant gains. For example, when more than five offices collaborate on a project, there is a 33% increase in their share of a client’s legal spending [21]. Law firms plan to develop a larger share of their client’s legal spending, especially during the difficult economic situation the market is experiencing in its recovery stage following the Covid-19 pandemic [22].

Collaboration is also important because clients value a consistent law firm across all legal practice areas and office locations. The more consistent a firm’s work, the more business and client referrals they generate. According to 61% of law firms surveyed by Acritas, a lack of consistency negatively affects their performance levels impacting their ability to generate profits and retain clients [23]. Moreover, collaboration within a law firm is more than just ‘working together. The level of internal and external collaboration reflects the project’s success and shapes the efficiency of a law firm’s business. Many companies and law firms use technology to implement smart collaboration to enable greater communication and resource sharing between their teams. The recent legal technology software being developed address the challenges associated with collaboration that law firms face and foster the ability to work in a teamwork-oriented environment both remotely effectively or in person [24].

Lastly, the world is becoming more interconnected, calling for all businesses to be more collaborative in how they offer their services. Law firms continue to expand and focus on new emerging markets while clients require lawyers with global training and expertise. This results in clients facing complicated legal issues that cover different areas of law and require lawyers with a different set of expertise and specialities, highlighting the need for greater collaboration using technology in the legal sector.

Final Words

The use of technology can significantly improve collaboration between law firm departments by eliminating administrative tasks, providing insights on team performance and efficient task allocation, enabling lawyers to add value to a law firm’s business. Legal technology solutions such as time tracking software, project management software, practice management systems, smart boardroom technology and client portals all allow lawyers to improve their communication with each other and their clients further eliminating the challenges associated in legal practice before the integration of such tools.

References

 

[1] ‘Collaboration, Effective Working and Legal Technology’ , Thread Insights (2021) at https://www.threadsoftware.ie/collaboration-effective-working-and-legal-technology

[2] Jenn Betts, ‘Legal Collaboration Technology: Opportunities and Challenges’, The legal Intelligence Law.com (2020) at https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2020/10/01/legal-collaboration-technology-opportunities-and-challenges/

[3] ‘Four Ways To Use Technology To Improve Legal Work  Productivity’, App4Legal at https://www.app4legal.com/four-ways-to-use-technology-to-improve-legal-work-productivity/

[4]Meg McEvoy, ‘Analysis: Legal Collaboration Tech Use Survey Shows’, Bloomberg Law (2020) at https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bloomberg-law-analysis/analysis-legal-collaboration-tech-use-is-surging-surveys-show

[5] Ibid

[6] ‘What is Task Management Software?’, Inflectra at https://www.inflectra.com/SpiraPlan/Highlights/Understanding-Task-Management-Software.aspx

[7] ‘5 Task Management Tools For Smarter Collaboration’, Timely Blog (2021) at https://memory.ai/timely-blog/task-management-tools

[8] ‘6 Ways To Power Up Project Collaboration’, Atlassian The Workstream at https://www.atlassian.com/work-management/project-collaboration#:~:text=Project%20management%20is%20what%20teams,together%20to%20get%20work%20done.

[9] Ibid (3)

[10] ‘How Time Tracking Can Improve Team Management’, ActiTime (September 2021) at https://www.actitime.com/time-tracking/team-management-with-time-tracker

[11] Ibid 

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid (3)

[14] Nicole Black, ‘How Lawyers Can Use Client Portals for Effective Collaboration with Clients’, MyCase (2021) at https://www.mycase.com/blog/lawyers-can-use-client-portals-effective-collaboration-clients/

[15] Ibid

[16] Stikeman Elliot LLP, ‘Seven Ways to Leverage Legal Technology, Collaboration and Automation for Hybrid Work’, Lexology (2021) at https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=11603574-4230-46b6-b7e2-b03361b36dbd

[17] Ibid

[18] Ibid

[19] Expert Insights, ‘5 Tips to Improve In House Legal Department Collaboration’, Wolters Kluwer (2020) at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en-gb/expert-insights/5-tips-for-improving-collaboration-between-legal-and-other-departments

[20] Ibid

[21] Legal Technology Blog, ‘How To Foster Collaboration in Law Firms While Working Remotely’, Amicus Attorney (2021) at https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/how-to-foster-collaboration-in-law-firms-while-working-remotely/

[22]https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en-us/posts/legal/acritas-collaboration-clients-legal-spend/

[23]Ibid (21) 

[24] Ibid