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9 November 2021

Digital skills within the legal workplace

The last year has seen a notable acceleration in digitisation across the working world, including within the legal profession. In this article we consider the tools, skills, and mindset that is needed to be successful in an increasingly digital landscape.

The legal sector, like many others, is an industry under constant pressure to achieve continued improvement and efficiencies. It therefore comes as no surprise that firms have turned to technology in recent years to streamline their processes, remain up to date and aware of the latest developments, and also provide the best client experience possible.

The most recent, and significant, shift is shown by firms’ increasing acceptance of homeworking, with the pandemic demonstrating both the need and practicality of using Zoom or Teams, re-routing office calls direct to lawyers’ mobiles, and – to cope with the increased amount of digital correspondence – instigating something a little more nuanced than the standard out-of-office automated response.

The adaptation to digital ways of working hasn’t happened completely overnight, however. Over the past 20 years the amount of practice management software in the average firm has grown, and it is no longer unusual to find a legal office equipped with programmes for the following:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) and client communication/ contact management
  • Case management (for checking laws/conflicts)
  • Specialist legal research
  • Time tracking (for billing)
  • Contract management
  • Calendaring/electronic diaries
  • Docket/document management
  • Court case tracking
  • Project management
  • Cybersecurity
  • Productivity tools, such as for mind-mapping

The use of such tools can not only make an organisation efficient, but also lessen its risks. Each year, many malpractice claims are brought simply because of administrative errors by law firms, and so removing the human element not only reduces this likelihood but also frees up staff to focus on the more complex, less clerical aspects of their job.

Looking to the future, lawyers who are tech-savvy also open up the door to new marketing opportunities to raise awareness of their services and reach a wider client base. Making use of social media, phone apps and potentially blogging increases name recognition and presents a new way to maintain that personal element to client relationships, even at a distance.

Of course, the advent of the digital law firm also requires the heightening of those most basic and non-technological of skills: good listening, communication, care, empathy, and emotional intelligence. As the process side of law becomes more automated, a good lawyer must be able to do what machines are unable to, and where a firm can distinguish themselves from their competition is their ability to interact with clients more meaningfully. There will always remain a need for good, old-fashioned people skills, but these will need to be accompanied by a digital mindset in order to continue to create and adapt according to the client’s needs.

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