The disruptive impact of the coronavirus pandemic is reverberating throughout the United States economy. Due to the pandemic, the legal services industry, like nearly all sectors of the economy, is currently engulfed in a time of immense change. Enormous pressures to control cost, increase efficiencies, and continue to deliver quality legal services are mounting, while, at the same time, lawyers and alternative service providers are confronted with the difficult realities of (often) working remotely, managing home responsibilities, and remaining vigilant about physical and emotional health. It is arguably a transformative time for the profession. And legal technology can and should play a critical role in this transformation.

Changes to the Legal Ecosystem

There have been a number of technology-driven developments over the last few months for the legal profession. Among others:

  • One of the most immediate changes caused by COVID-19 for attorneys is the unprecedented number of attorneys working remotely. Outside law firms have, almost overnight, mobilized a remote work force throughout the country (and globally as well) of attorneys and support staff. Collaboration tools, like web-based videoconferencing platforms, have become key elements of many attorneys’ work processes. The integration of these tools is unlikely to go away, even as attorneys return to the physical workspace.
  • For years, many have said that paper is dead. In the COVID era, with so many attorneys working remotely, the increasing irrelevance of paper is even more pronounced. For example, some registered agents are accepting service of process digitally rather than requiring delivery of originals. Moreover, for business contracts, tech developers have created a number of tools that allow for digitized contract requests, approvals, and executions, including through the use of e-signatures by parties. These tools are quicker, less expensive when scaled, and allow for instantaneous and arguably better recordkeeping than traditional paper-based models.
  • Further, many courts have embraced technology in unprecedented ways. Judicial hearings via videoconference or teleconference are now commonplace, and judges are becoming increasingly comfortable with using technology to conduct court business and ensure that cases are moving forward. In the alternative dispute resolution arena, many mediators, arbitrators, and neutrals have wholeheartedly embraced technology and conducted mediations and hearings through videoconferencing tech.
  • Moreover, the practical effect of the economic downturn has meant that legal consumers are interested in identifying ways to lower legal cost. As a means to deliver value and drive efficiencies, lawyers and law firms should strongly consider remaining nimble and open to tools already available (and rapidly developing) that automate certain legal services, such as responding to complaints and discovery as well as automation of document review and other services traditionally performed by attorneys. When scaled, these tools can drastically reduce the cost of services provided by outside counsel and drive significant cost savings to clients.

Embrace, but Be Mindful

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