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‘Stay competitive’ in 2024 with your firm’s tech implementation

Within the evolving SME and boutique landscape, legal technology will likely play an increasingly present role in 2024, with the embrace of this tech no longer an option but a strategic imperative.

user iconLauren Croft 25 January 2024 SME Law
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With 2024 likely to bring a number of challenges for firm owners, boutiques and SMEs, these firm leaders confirmed that by keeping up with new legal tech trends, small firms can mitigate potential challenges and become increasingly efficient in a digital landscape.

Principal solicitor at The Family Law Co, Carla Giles, said that for her, exploring and implementing new tech helped increase access to justice for those in need.

“As a family lawyer, I am acutely aware that the cost of accessing family law services – including private alternative dispute resolution – is simply not affordable for many Australians. When I established The Family Law Co in January 2021, my goal was to utilise modern cloud-based technology to deliver quality, timely, and affordable family law advice – particularly to those in regional and remote areas who may not otherwise have access to local family lawyers,” she told Lawyers Weekly.


“In carrying out this vision, I see one of the challenges of my role as keeping our services as affordable and accessible as possible, despite the costs of business skyrocketing, and this means keeping our costs as low as possible by keeping abreast of the latest offerings in terms of legal practice technology and efficiencies.”

Over the last three years, Ms Giles has seen the demand for efficiency increase steadily, as well as a “fundamental shift in consumer expectations when it comes to engaging with services”.

Nowadays, customers anticipate the ability to secure or lock in a service immediately upon deciding to engage with it. This paradigm shift is closely tied to the rapid advancements in legal technology trends. Small businesses, especially those in the legal sector, must recognise the significance of keeping up with these technological shifts to remain competitive. Whether it’s streamlining client onboarding processes, adopting efficient case management systems, or integrating online legal services, staying abreast of legal tech trends is paramount.

“Embracing these advancements not only enhances the overall client experience but also ensures that small businesses can operate efficiently in the contemporary, fast-paced business landscape. The ability to meet and exceed client expectations through the incorporation of legal tech is not just a matter of convenience; it has become a strategic imperative for the sustained success of small businesses in the ever-evolving marketplace,” she added.

“It is also apparent that consumers have many methods of communication available to them and expect that the provision of legal services will be carried out and communicated via the consumer’s most desired communication channel – be that letter, email, text message, telephone, or via online platforms. This presents a unique challenge for lawyers in being able to firstly facilitate these various comms methods, but secondly, being able to capture these communications in the client file in an organised way. That is where a good practice management software steps in.”

Technology can not only help smaller firms deliver client outcomes more efficiently but also assist firm owners in managing and delegating their tasks to ensure their “time can be maximised as a business owner”, according to Claire Styles, founder and principal lawyer of C Legal and Co, who said her firm uses tech in a variety of ways and that it is “invaluable”.

“Our firm uses AI and automation to assist with precedent documentation. This again enables you, as the business firm owner, to leverage your time to be able to give your clients the best service and advice. Where you can automate, automate. Where you can use AI, use AI. Day-to-day operations are systematic and process-driven, and these areas thrive off AI. We must adapt, and we must learn how tech and AI can support the operating functions of a law firm and how it can assist with document preparation in an efficient and accurate way,” she explained.

“I am currently discussing how workflow platforms can be automated and how we can be more efficient when onboarding clients with their data in our software management systems. For example, for those that have a conveyancing department, there is so much data entry that is on repeat – from the real estate agent, to the mortgage broker, to the lawyer and other stakeholders.

“How can we make this a better experience for the client – no one likes telling someone their name, address and date of birth multiple times – and tech has the answer; it is just time for all stakeholders to band together to create a platform where we can share information (with client’s consent of course) to help leverage our time better as lawyers.”

However, while it’s important to stay on top of current market trends, Travis Schultz & Partners chief executive Kelly Phelps warned against investing in any and all tech.

“We have to be mindful not to jump on every trend because, as a smaller firm, it’s important to understand the costs and benefits before you invest resources to introduce and upskill staff to use and embed in your firms’ processes. In certain aspects of our business, we have to be at the cutting edge of new technology in order to protect our clients’ privacy and ensure our data security is optimal. Beyond that, our focus is on adopting solutions that will truly improve value for our clients,” she said.

“When it comes to improved workflow, we are always considering the benefits of products available in the market. With it, we weigh the long-term benefits of making such commitments to new technology, with the investment required by the business and the whole team to take the journey.”

In terms of how her firm is exploring new tech, Ms Giles said she sets aside time every week to analyse the firm’s current internal processes and opportunities for efficiencies – which she said was required “in order to stay competitive”.

“We are using tech automation in nearly every aspect of the client journey, from the client’s initial online booking and payment to the offering of an online consultation and the due diligence / disclosure process. Notwithstanding this, we are always on the lookout for further efficiencies and adoption of new or emerging legal services tech solutions.

“In 2023, we implemented the utilisation of automation and technology during the client onboarding process to assist our solicitors to identify family violence at a very early stage, allowing us to tailor our initial consultations and provision of legal services accordingly,” she added.

“As a boutique firm, it can be overwhelming to think about, especially if tech is not your thing. A good place to start is with your existing practice management software. Many firms utilise practice management software, but few take the time to learn how to fully utilise all the available features. Taking the time to learn about all the features available as well as regularly reviewing any new product features and implementing those within your firm will pay off in the long run.”

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