Digital transformation

Are Law Firms Slow to Adopt Technology?

Over and over again, we see examples of how technology produces more efficient, productive, and profitable law firms. So why do some still resist these changes?


Law firms are bound in tradition. Even as tech solutions flourish, paper is the law of the land at many firms. There’s a good argument to be made about those libraries of bound leather volumes and bank boxes stuffed with files. These are physical, tangible signs of knowledge, research, and productivity, and there is definitely some reassurance and integrity evident in these papers.

But times have changed.

Over and over again, we see examples of how technology produces more efficient, more productive, and more profitable law firms. So why do some still resist these changes?

The Pain of Purging Paper

Despite the tech tools on the market that promise to make legal work easier and more efficient, a paper-first mindset still wins in many firms. That creates some real pain points and obstacles when it comes to replacing these methods with technology.

Risk of a Security Breach

Security slip-ups from a third party compromise sensitive client information, and this can cause some significant consequences not only for the outcome of a case but also in terms of client trust. A security breach raises legitimate concerns, including whether the law firm would be held responsible for failure to perform its due diligence to protect clients.

Past Experiences with Tech

A lifetime of acquiring and discarding many technologies can color one’s view. At best, retrieving information from obsolete technology adds cost and requires expert help, whereas a paper document can provide a reliable record for 10, 25, 50 years or longer. When future access is uncertain, paper is always attractive.

New Tech Misconceptions

Cloud technology solutions can provide a secure and reliable way to store and access critical information and assets. However, using the cloud means the information is stored someplace that another party potentially can gain control of. That idea can be off-putting to partners who want to preserve the integrity of information.

Fear of Growth

Billable hours are a major source of income for any law firm. When technology solutions promise to remove too much time, the fear is that would affect the firm’s bottom line and stunt the potential of growth.

The document-everything-or-it-didn’t-happen standard is strongly rooted in the legal field because that is the basis of building and proving a case. Understanding the pitfalls and limitations of technology can be a helpful starting point when choosing and implementing new systems.

When approached in a thoughtful way, however, there are opportunities for firms to deliver better value to their clients.     

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Turning Point: How Technology Drives Transformation

Even in the face of hesitation to adopt technology solutions, law firms may eventually reach a point where adopting technology is no longer optional. Clients will be coming in the door expecting a certain level of productivity and efficiency – a level that only technology can provide. One source of pressure could very well be coming from corporate clients.

According to the most recent Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker LDO Index Benchmarking and Trends Report, an increasing number of corporate legal departments are turning to outside firms for assistance:

  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of organizations say their volume of legal work has increased.
  • Almost all (89 percent) organizations cited controlling outside counsel costs as a priority.

This certainly presents a growth opportunity for private firms. The caveat is that the legal department budgets paying for these contracts are under corporate oversight, which means these are clients that will be working under a directive to manage their legal spend as tightly as possible.

Successful contractors must come prepared to demonstrate value to their client. Pressure will increase to control costs and use systems that integrate with that of their clients. Even firms that have managed, until now, to thrive without taking on new technology solutions will eventually face the day where they must plan and execute their own technology evolution.    

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