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Thomson Reuters
Law firm management

New report—trends in the use of technology for small and medium law firms

Kirsten Maslen

27 Mar 2020

REUTERS/Thomas White

At the end of last year, we surveyed 200 of our customers in small and medium sized law firms (those with up to 100 fee earners). We asked about the competitive landscape and their views on how technology does or could support their growth.

The firms surveyed were of varying sizes serving mostly SME businesses and consumers. The majority practised in litigation/dispute resolution, commercial and residential property, private client, family, and commercial law.

We present the survey data in two reports; this second report is on the use of technology.

Download your copy of ‘Small and Medium Law Firms Report 2020: Trends in the use of technology

In our partner report, Small and Medium Law Firms Report 2020: Competitive landscape, our respondents identified technology as key to enabling them to meet their growth objectives, with a particular focus on solutions that supported responsive, improved client experience, profitability and efficiency. However, a number of barriers to achieving these objectives emerged.

Technology maturity: automation and client collaboration

The survey contained some proxy metrics to gauge the firms’ technological maturity. More firms felt confident in their use of technology to manage their financial and performance metrics while other areas were less developed. For example, 66 percent of respondents did not feel there was a high level of technological expertise in their firms. At the same time, 64 percent believed they would benefit from automating more of their work.

Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSPs) reported the highest levels of automation with 50 percent agreeing that their processes were automated end to end, compared with 25 percent of medium-sized law firms and 20 percent of small law firms.

At the same time, 60 percent of ALSPs said they used technology to collaborate with clients to improve the client experience compared with 29 percent of medium-sized law firms and 19% of small law firms.

How important is technology to meeting law firms’ challenges?

In this report, respondents ranked their top challenges as:

  • Clients demanding more for less
  • Increasing pace of legal and regulatory change
  • Managing staff, hiring, developing and retaining talent

Of the total respondents, 57 percent said that technology was important in helping them address these challenges. However, while law firms employ a variety of solutions to run their businesses, their predictions about which of their tasks were most likely to be impacted by technology were some of the least commonly used by our respondents. These included:

  • Document automation
  • Client collaboration
  • Internal collaboration tools
  • E-filing

A significant minority of respondents had plans to implement new technology in 2020. These firms had clear ideas about what would make the implementation successful, including strong change management processes, and systems which were easy to use and integrate with existing systems.

Download your copy of ‘Small and Medium Law Firms Report 2020: Trends in the use of technology

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