4 Law Technology Trends to Watch for in 2014

BY: ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2014

Embracing new technologies is essential to the success of any business, and law firms are no exception. In 2014, more firms are expected to adopt technologies to make their practices more efficient and cost-effective.

For some firms, putting new technologies in place may appear more of a burden than an opportunity. But for those willing to adapt, even small technology shifts can greatly improve workflows and provide clients – including small businesses – with more focused legal services.

Here are four trends to watch that could influence the legal industry in 2014.

The Rise of the Cloud


According to Frank Strong, Communications Director at LexisNexis, 2014 “is shaping up to be the year of the cloud.”

“While the legal profession has been arguably slower than other industries in adoption, a recent survey of 279 independent attorneys found about 40 percent were using cloud tools now, 50 percent say they are more inclined to use the cloud next year, and 72 percent believe firms are more likely to adopt a cloud service in 2014,” Strong said.

The American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey Report found that cloud adoption was twice as high as it was three years ago, and it isn’t expected to slow in 2014.

Speed, availability of access and ease of use were named the top benefits of using cloud-based services in a recent LexisNexis report. Many cloud service providers have also put stronger and more sophisticated security measures in place.

For many law firms, making the switch to cloud-based services can help in nearly every area of practice, including document management, billing, virtual offices, and case management.

Focus on the Ethical Obligations of Attorneys


With emerging and expanding technologies come their ethical applications. In 2014, many legal professionals expect there to be a greater emphasis on ethical obligations of attorneys when it comes to technology.

“Basically, lawyers have an ethical obligation to be competent,” said Andrew Legrand, technology consultant and founder of Andrew Legrand Law, LLC. “The ABA has determined that this includes technical competence.”

According to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, lawyers must stay abreast of the “benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

But mere competence is just the starting point – technological prowess often offers a better experience for clients as well.

“In addition to ethical obligations, clients are demanding tech-savvy lawyers,” said Legrand. “The days of inefficiency and hourly billing are disappearing. The best example is Kia, whose in-house counsel actually tests the tech skills of his outside counsel.”

“The implications are clear: efficiency and technology-savvy attorneys have a huge advantage over inefficient systems because they’ll get more done with less,” Legrand said.

Scalable Efficiency


While cloud services can automate many processes, it often takes a combination of technologies to make a firm truly more efficient.

Criminal defense attorney Jeremy Geigle of JacksonWhite Law believes a combination of mobile, remote, and desktop technologies is the key to success.

“Automation and efficiency are going to become even more important in the year ahead. Paperless offices, remote court appearances and the use of mobile devices will continue to streamline more processes,” Geigle said.

“The number of legal-specific apps and services will continue to grow and attorneys will have more choices in which kind of mobile technologies they want to leverage.”

For a lot of firms, the key to using technology for maximum efficiency is deciding which services to adopt and how to best use them.

John Wallbillich, founder of Lexvista LLC, believes efficiency can go beyond the day-to-day routine, affecting things like continuing education.

“I expect that we will see more learning options for lawyers that will be delivered through desktop or mobile applications, on-demand when and where the lawyer needs them,” Wallbillich said in a report of 2014 predictions from Lumen Legal.

Leveraging Big Data


Law firms are no stranger to collecting, organizing and maintaining data, but what could change is the extent to which firms leverage this data.

Madlen Miller, business development and marketing manager at Gross McGinley, LLP, predicts that making full use of available data could create a whole new playing field in the industry.

“The concept of data mining has taken a front-row seat in the business world,” Miller said. “Wal-Mart has been doing it for years and is one of the main reasons the company sustains its competitive advantage.  Many times I find the legal profession lags behind a bit when it comes to business trends.”

But that could be changing. In 2013, the legal industry gave more attention to data mining, and in September a paper written by a South Texas College of Law professor found that lawyers who are willing to embrace data leverage are likely to gain significant advantages over their data-less competitors.

The key to data mining for law firms, Miller believes, is applying an effective system that can easily identify relevant data and trends.

“While most mid to large-sized firms have acknowledged the value of their data, whether it be with client databases or CRMs, I don’t think firms are utilizing the data they have to its fullest potential,” Miller said.

“Obviously, having the time to sit down and really examine the data you collect is a daunting task.  However, it is important for firms to realize the valuable data they have currently and understand the capabilities of their data tools."

Image via Shuttestock

About the Author

Dustin Christensen
Dustin Christensen is the Digital Marketing Manager at JacksonWhite Law, a full-service law firm in Arizona. He specializes in SEO, content marketing and PPC, and blogs about digital marketing for legal professionals at Brandrise.
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