How our digital world changes the future of law firms

How our digital world changes the future of law firms

Oct 29, 20150 comments

So, after being in presentations, keynote sessions and discussions for 2 days on ICT in the law industry, what are the highlights we take from the LawTech conference in Brussels?

ICT won’t take over .. completely

Well, first and foremost, law firms don’t have to be scared that ICT is taking over completely. Human knowledge about the context and human intelligence and experience will remain needed. The labour intensive activities such as document collection, ordering and selection will be largely replaced by smart applications, which are already on the market. The e-discovery potential is enormous and from a forensic point of view, the information age has just started. Mainly because of the exponentially fast growing information producing processes. Think of social media, the digitalization of all kinds of information, e-mails, chats and all sort of communications. And there will be way more digital information created by the internet of things. It will gather information of all kinds, such as your whereabouts, the location, speed and status of your car, the people and things around, information from all kind of sensors etc. Even the wearables on and in your cloths will provide information and ‘magic’ carpets will measure who is walking in your living room. It will provide lots of data as prove of certain actions, the presence of people around or environmental information which could have influenced your decisions.

Process mining, case prediction tool and engaged discussions

Another interesting innovation is process mining, providing insight in which activities have actually been carried out, instead of the designed process. This gives information on which activities might have been carried out without the right approvals and thus might have been criminal activities. We also saw a case prediction tool. You provide the case details and the software will give you an estimate for the success rate, would the case go on trial. We saw pricing and project management support tools to streamline and support your processes in law firms. We saw engaged discussions between ICT providers, service providers, lawyers, legal councils and consultants. The discussion about who is performing or providing which legal services is opened, and the rules of the game and the way legal processes are organized are being changed.

Drive for innovation comes mainly from clients

One of the most intriguing remarks was made about the drive of innovation at law firms. Namely, that it will be the clients of law firms who be the driving force for innovation. Law firms in itself are (still) reluctant to change and are not willing to really open up for innovation. So the clients (mainly legal departments) will demand innovation, mostly reflecting in more efficiency. But they also seek relief at trustworthy and well known law firms when it gets really bad or scary. For the more regular legal work, they might slowly turn to alternative providers. They have way more money and are far more innovative in their services than traditional big law firms. As a well-known fact, big law firms are actually quite poor, due to the yearly distribution of all profit amongst the partners. There are little reserves or funds for long term investments (and due to the financial structure, the focus is mainly on the current year, instead of the years to come). So, knowing this, big law firms are confronted with three options: fighting, ignoring of cooperating with the new alternative legal service providers, or you might be taken over. Again, this will not be the case for all firms; the intrinsic value of big brands providing relief is immense.


Concluding, technology has influence on several aspects in the legal world. On the plus side, due to the continuing digitization of our world, huge amounts of data will be available for forensic work. That will create a lot of legal work. The data collection, ordering, selection, de-duplication, etc. will be digitized processes, whilst review and analysis will still require (some) human intelligence. Legal work itself will be supported by ICT tools, such as intelligent budgeting, project management, resource management, work allocation, etc. Leading to legal firms who are more efficient than nowadays. These ICT tools will be introduced apart from the systems already in place like dossier management, customer relationship management, time and billing, etc.

All in all, for law firms a big quest and not an easy task. Outsiders might consider the legal sector as slow moving, for the firms itself it is a huge step to start with innovation in a sector which hasn’t really evolved itself in the last decades. The first steps are the hardest and bravest. And it will take some time to learn how to run, be flexible and adaptable to change. The nature of the legal work itself will not change by these innovations, but it will be digitized and legal firms have to adopt it quickly for not being overrun by the new competitors.

De auteur

Timo Schrama

Timo Schrama

Innovatie en digitale strategie

Innovatietafel, Intervisie, Changemanagement en disruptie, Legal Project Management en Procesverbetering 06-55858128 Meer informatie