To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
The legaltech sector is awash with innovative solutions to the myriad problems encountered by law firms and in-house legal departments. Working in this environment, it's tempting to see everything through this familiar, high-tech lens when searching for solutions for our clients:
- Doing a document review? This deep learning, AI platform will help you do it more efficiently.
- Manual list of tasks? We'll build you a workflow app to manage it for you.
Often high tech is the right approach, especially for larger law firms. Facing increasing competition from the Big Four and demands from clients for certainty on pricing, sophisticated automation projects will almost certainly deliver a return on investment.
However, while large law firms have the budgets and transaction volumes to justify their investment in new technology, legal departments often work in a different environment. Small legal teams may be constrained by time, budget and their ability to influence what are often difficult decisions on selecting the right technology.
Step back and assess
So, what should we be doing when clients ask for our help?
- Find out where the key problems lie. Unpick their process and uncover their pain points. This might be a bottleneck due to a staffing issue, a repetitive task ripe for automation, or the wrong tool for the job.
- Gauge the client's appetite for change. To implement a new platform or install a new system, they will likely have to get permission from their IT department; there may be security issues, or there may already be similar systems in place. Internal teams may also prefer to continue using tools they are familiar with (ie Microsoft/Adobe).
- Put aside your bias towards high tech and ask what will save the client the most time and make the task at hand easiest to perform.
Can less mean more?
Although dependent on the type of problem being addressed, a low-tech solution using established tools does not necessarily lead to a poorer outcome for the client and may even still be considered "innovative"!
By placing the client at the centre of your thinking, it's possible to apply design principles and make use of existing features in commonly used tools to deliver an improved and effective user experience - even if using Word or Excel.
For example, we were recently challenged by a client to make a lengthy piece of advice more user-friendly, as this was something the client's internal business groups would be interacting with on a regular basis.
We pitched a high-tech solution to automate via a questionnaire that provides a tailored set of answers to the end user, and a low-tech solution using design principles and an interactive PDF to make the information easier to navigate.
Our client opted for the PDF and was very happy with the result, receiving a great deal of positive feedback from their internal stakeholders. Did the PDF provide all the bells and whistles of the automated solution? No. But it met the client's key requirements and was delivered quickly and at low cost.
Not the end of the story
Those immersed in legaltech might consider a low-tech solution somewhat second best; a missed opportunity to automate or to start deriving analytical insights from data. As with most things in life, it's important to find a balance based on the individual requirements of the client or project.
For an in-house legal team, this "low-tech" solution may be a step towards a more sophisticated set of tools or the beginning of their automation journey.
Joel Kennedy works within Lander & Rogers' innovation hub - iHub, as a Transformation & Process Improvement Consultant. Joel is an experienced business analyst and process & innovation specialist who works with firm clients to deliver innovation and transformation projects. Joel has worked in legal technology for 20 years and has extensive experience in translating what internal and external clients need and what technology can deliver.
All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.