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Lawyers have ‘not been maximising the potential of technology to grow and advance’

In an era in which sectors across the board are rapidly embracing emerging technologies, the legal profession does not appear to be moving at the same pace, argues the APAC lead for a global software provider.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 19 February 2024 Big Law
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Is the pace of change too slow?

Law has always been a conservative industry and steeped in tradition. The advent – and certainly recent explosion in mainstream awareness – of emerging technologies has forced the profession to explore and contemplate the onboarding and utilisation of new platforms.

However, while the legal profession has moved to evolve, the pace of change is perhaps not where it should be, suggests one professional.


In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Stefan Steenveld, the lead in the Asia-Pacific region for global risk management software provider Litera, reflected that in an age where professionals market-wide are leveraging new and emerging tech to better support business operations, “the legal profession has not been maximising the potential of technology to grow and advance”.

“Eighty per cent of commercial firms’ yearly revenue still comes from existing client relationships. And many lawyers continue to use traditional methods to manage these crucial relationships – relying on handshakes, referrals, and scattered communication,” he posited.

“When legal professionals rely too much on traditional means like manual data entry, important relationships can often slip through the cracks. This means connections might not be fully understood or effectively managed, and puts firms at risk of losing out on substantial revenue.”

Investing in the right technology, Mr Steenveld opined, can provide law firms access to real-time data and easily access historical data, which can save time and improve collaboration, transparency, and new strategic capabilities.

“For example, by incorporating technology, a lawyer can complete a court document much faster thanks to having access to a large database of standard templates and forms. Law firms that fail to keep up with the changes risk falling behind the competition,” he said.

To continually evolve and make the most of technology and the rate of adoption of these technologies, he said, law firms need to break down internal silos.

“Dismantling the internal information silos is essential. By fostering a collaborative environment where information flows seamlessly across departments, firms can leverage a wealth of valuable data for better decision making,” he outlined.

Recently, Mr Steenveld suggested, among other predictions for 2024, that law firms that do not use generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) will be “at a serious disadvantage”.

What’s dictating lawyers’ pace of change?

The challenge, Mr Steenveld continued, is that many firms and clients do not have a clear grasp on what AI does, how it works, or how it can benefit them.

“Internally, many law firms may be driving AI adoption for efficiency, but clients may not understand how that translates to the final work product. While AI technology has clear advantages to help lawyers work faster and deliver a more robust product to clients, many firms struggle to advocate for these tools internally with lawyers and externally with clients. There is still much to learn on all sides,” he explained.

“The pace of change in the legal industry depends largely on client needs and the talent market. As clients demand faster and more affordable services, disruptive legal tech tools have surfaced as solutions allowing lawyers to work faster and more effectively.”

However, Mr Steenveld reflected, implementing the latest technology can be expensive, and changing workflows can often result in resistance from lawyers.

“Law firms need to stay informed and adaptable to thrive in the evolving legal landscape,” he said.

Adoption strategies in 2024

When asked what firms and in-house departments should be looking for in the new year, Mr Steenveld mused that there is an abundance of technologies in the market, and adopting the wrong tech can lead to unnecessary hours of learning and getting comfortable with the tech.

“Technology should solve real problems,” he submitted.

“Consider client needs and the technology’s ability to demonstrate a clear return on investment. Innovations driven by genuine client problems and a proven business model are more likely to succeed.”

“New legal technology should be seamless and reliable, augmenting human capabilities rather than replacing them. Integrating AI like GenAI strategically, with a focus on efficiency and human oversight is crucial. By focusing on addressing the pain points of lawyers, law firms can navigate the ever-evolving legal landscape and leverage technology to their advantage,” he said.

When it comes to adoption, Mr Steenveld advised, it is crucial that innovation and IT teams take the long view on technology, with an eye for products that provide clean, seamless integration, versus several one-off tools from a variety of vendors “that may not stand the test of time”, or easily integrate with your existing products and solutions.

Challenges to overcome

Ultimately, and in the fast-paced world of law, where accuracy and efficiency are paramount, the integration of technology has “emerged as a game changer”, Mr Steenveld declared.

“For law firms, client demand acts as a compass guiding the adoption of technology. The technological solutions implemented must offer a clear ROI and address specific client needs. The integration of technology should not merely be driven by its novelty; instead, it must fulfil a genuine function or requirement.”

In many ways, he went on, 2023 was the year that people began to understand what AI really is – and what it can do.

“However, 2024 will be the year we see how the legal industry will gain confidence in GenAI as it continues to have a positive impact on how we work,” he added.

“GenAI does not remove any of the responsibility of the lawyer to be diligent and follow their ethical obligations. Instead, it offers the ability to potentially start from an accelerated position in their workflow or shift duties, as GenAI can take the first pass on many tasks. When it comes to M&A or document review, NOT using GenAI and LLM tools will put firms at a serious disadvantage as they will not be able to work nearly as quickly, accurately, or efficiently as firms that are leveraging these game-changing tools,” Mr Steenveld listed.

“Tech adoption should ultimately streamline the business and practice of law and allow lawyers – and the business professionals that support them – to focus on their most impactful work.”

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