LEAP, an Australian cloud-based legal practice management software for law firms and conveyancers, is celebrating 30 years in operation. Here, acting chief executive Alexandra Kelly and client, senior associate Nicholas Plummer, reflect on the evolution of tech and innovation in the legal sector, the current state of affairs, and what the future may hold.
Reflections on the 30th anniversary
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, following the 30th anniversary of its operations, LEAP acting chief executive Alexandra Kelly says that it means a huge amount for the company to have serviced the legal profession for as long as it has.
“Every feature in LEAP has been developed in response to a real issue raised by lawyers, practice managers, and paralegals. Personally, I know this to be a true - like many people at LEAP, I worked in the law before LEAP,” she explains.
“This is how we have successfully served the legal profession for thirty years. We invest more than $20 million every year into research and development to improve, expand and refine LEAP for our clients. Here at LEAP, our mission is to ‘help lawyers who help people.’”
“By providing the world’s-leading legal practice productivity solution, we’re proud to help lawyers work more efficiently, and free them to focus on delivering excellent legal advice and client service,” she says.
Lessons from three decades of innovation
What is apparent to LEAP, after 30 years of working with the legal services sector, is that is it’s not easy to change how one works.
Sometimes, Ms Kelly notes, “the processes you’ve had in place for decades might not be the most efficient, but they are what you are used to doing”.
“Big innovations – like going ‘paperless’, or even resisting the urge to print an email – take time, and they take champions within a law firm.”
“A large part of what we do is to empower innovation champions with the tools and information they need to drive change within their law firms. Much of what we do is as much about change management as it is about outstanding legal software,” she says.
Grice Legal senior associate Nicholas Plummer agrees, submitting that the biggest challenge facing practitioners at this critical juncture – in addition to automation – is going paperless.
“It’s a big step to take,” he says.
“For a lot of people, it is a big challenge to go away from using paper at all. If you're going to use all the technology that's out there nowadays, you've got to move away from paper. It just doesn't make sense.”
“So, we're moving towards more ‘paper lite’ operations. For me, it was really beating that muscle memory, and forcing yourself to use content searching to find things. It's making sure your systems are set up properly, so that everything scanned is OCR (Optimal Character Recognition). OCR scanning allows you to search not only the documents you create, but the documents you've received,” he explains.
It’s why Mr Plummer decided to start the @paperlesslawyer account on Instagram.
“It was a way to help other lawyers who loathe paper to go paperless, and use technology to streamline and simplify their practice,” he says.
““It was a way to help other lawyers who loathe paper to go paperless, and use technology to streamline and simplify their practice,” he says.
— Nicholas Plummer
“Even now, I don't use a pen and paper; I write on my iPad. So, it was sort of getting away from picking up a pen to jot something down when you are on the phone or when you think of something to do it all on a screen.”
On the question of automation, “the whole gamut” of such change is also at the forefront for Mr Plummer.
“There are solutions that can automate document flows and all that sort of stuff, just by asking questions. And that's not something that we've gotten into yet, because I just don't think we do the volume of work or the type of process.”
“By just automating how you bring in client information through the LEAP client intake form will change your workflows throughout your office. Reducing data entry with connected products reduces risk and saves time,” he says.
“By automating how you get a phone message, you save valuable time. By automating all those mundane tasks, you can save a few seconds or a few minutes here and there. All those saved minutes add up, if you think about it.”
How LEAP helps, and what practitioners need moving forward
In the face of such ongoing challenges for the profession, Mr Plummer reflects, LEAP has been able to assist him and other practitioners in ensuring client service delivery doesn’t falter.
“RapidPay really stepped up by providing all our payment details on the bills to clients. Clients can pay by BPAY, EFT and credit card, so you don’t need to hire your own EFTPOS terminal. LEAP integrates with PEXA, so we just put in the RapidPay reference number and get paid at settlement. Job done!”
Beyond this Mr Plummer finds having account reminders to be very helpful, particularly for law firms which don’t have a dedicated accounts department.
Grice Legal uses RapidPay to format bills – “we don't bother with Word bills”.
“We create invoices through LEAP,” said Mr Plummer.
“Interactive invoices can be created in LEAP, sent via LawConnect, and paid via RapidPay,” said Ms Kelly. “Clients can even lodge queries as needed. Lawyers love it because of its automation, and the fact it pulls manual time entries from their matters. This alone captures so much billable work that might otherwise get missed if you use a less accurate method of time entry. Clients appreciate the transparency of interactive invoices.”
Mr Plummer concurs. “Clients have paid this way for years, as they are so used to seeing that familiar payment strip at the bottom of the bill.”
For him, driving innovation within his own practice can sometimes be demanding, Mr Plummer says.
“It's good, but it can be frustrating, because I'm keen to take on things and sort of push the firm to use technology a lot more. And I've built a lot of our own sort of automations with Power Automate with Microsoft and using Microsoft forms,” he outlines.
“Pushing people to stop printing can be tough. Asking, how can we do things better? How can I innovate? How can I do something without printing off a document, signing it, and then scanning it back in? Could I scan it, or load in my signature on the computer or, you know, think outside the paper square?”
LawConnect plays a major role in this push ‘beyond the paper square.’
“LawConnect is a great example of how LEAP helps lawyers put confidentiality and security first,” explained Ms Kelly. “LawConnect is a platform through which you can easily and securely share documents with clients. It’s also available as a mobile app, which is handy to help lawyers work wherever they are."
““LawConnect is a great example of how LEAP helps lawyers put confidentiality and security first. Powered by AWS, your clients can view and collaborate on documents, sign forms or cost agreements in one secure accessible location - a far cry from a filing cabinet, or a hacked email.”
— Alexandra Kelly
The pandemic has accelerated the uptake and adoption of innovative products in his firm and others, Mr Plummer adds.
“We realised that it was great to do more online and be able to work remotely. We are now back in the office, but if you're not well or have another commitment, you can still have that flexibility. As a lawyer, the biggest bonus has been doing court appearances on Teams. That's just so much better than having to drive into the city find a car park. Go to court to meet a client for a Directions Hearing, that might not take long, then drive all the way back to the office,” he explains.
“It’s just made life a lot easier.”
Mr Plummer: “Family Courts are still doing preliminary hearings via Teams. I think that’s something that’s probably going to remain. It's a big saving on resources, as you don't have to get a whole lot of people in one place. It can be juggled a lot easier. It's better for practitioners and the parties.”
What’s in store in the next 30 years of legal innovation?
When asked about LEAP’s mission moving forward, as it helps lawyers thrive through post-pandemic life, Ms Kelly says that the provider is committed to continue working shoulder-to-shoulder with law firms.
“We’re ready to meet the needs of law firms as they improve and refine how they work to better serve their clients. We’re here to empower lawyers to perform at their very best, free from repetitive, dull ‘busywork’ and administrative tasks,” she explains. “This is how we’ve succeeded to date, and it’s how we hope to thrive in the next thirty years and beyond.”
According to Ms Kelly, COVID-19 lockdowns fast-tracked the uptake of innovative practices.
“Law firms embraced LEAP, as we had a proven track record of providing secure, reliable work-from-home practice management solution. We are excited to continue this momentum to deliver LEAP to lawyers in new jurisdictions,” she proclaims.
“In fact, in September, we officially launched LEAP to New Zealand law firms through the Legal Innovation Tour and LawFest – and we’ve seen a huge response from firms keen to level up through great legal tech.”
More broadly, Ms Kelly adds, LEAP fully understands and appreciates that the law is changing.
“We see this everywhere: with Justice Jayne Jagot’s High Court appointment, we have the first ever female-majority High Court of Australia. Through COVID-19, lawyers are enthusiastically exploring all that legal tech can offer at rates previously unseen,” she says.
“As we have for the last three decades, LEAP is ready to meet whatever challenges await us in the legal profession, and together, help forge the future of law.”