Despite the challenges of the pandemic, FY 2021 proved to be a profitable year for law firms in Australia. According to Thomson Reuters’ “2021 Australia: State of the Legal Market” report, the average profit as a percentage of revenue rose to 36.8% from July 2020 to June 2021.
This growth in profitability was achieved in part thanks to the adoption of technologies that improved law firm efficiency and assisted employees in the sudden shift to remote working.
“Law firms responded to market conditions with strategic approaches and by reimagining client experiences,” said Jackie Rhodes, managing director of Asia & Emerging Markets, Thomson Reuters. “Firms are taking the opportunity to serve clients better, which is helping to strengthen their relationships. The appetite for digital transformation has never been stronger, creating greater efficiency and flexibility in providing legal guidance.”
This report demonstrates the marked effects improving efficiency can have on law firms’ profitability. After all, there are only so many hours in a day, and many firms expect a certain amount of billable hours from their lawyers. Yet three out of four law firms say spending too much time on administrative tasks is a “moderate” challenge for them. It makes sense, therefore, that using intelligent software technologies to free up lawyers from non-billable administrative work means more billable hours and greater profits.
Improving law firm efficiency is also important for business development. Being able to conduct legal research or draw up contracts that are accurate in a timely manner, to give just a couple of examples, means happier clients, who will not only give you repeat business but also refer you to their networks. Ironing out inefficiencies will also allow you to focus more resources on developing business growth strategies so you can continue to stay ahead of your competitors.
It will come as no surprise that of the technologies law firms adopt to improve efficiency, content services and business process automation are the most critical – after all, legal work is an industry that is document-intensive, so being able to produce, search and process these documents efficiently and easily will deliver huge time savings.
Here are 4 ways content services solutions can drive efficiency in your law firm.
1. Intelligent capture
Any successful law firm must be able to retrieve and action critical information quickly and efficiently. With intelligent capture software, documents can be ingested in their original electronic format or scanned directly from your multifunction device (MFD) into a single secure repository, database or any other system. The data within those documents is then extracted via an intelligent OCR or AI engine.
This ability to effectively “intelligently read” documents opens up a world of possibilities in terms of improving law firm efficiency. Documents can be correctly named, distributed, filed and uploaded to the appropriate location automatically, and the database can be searched intelligently using keywords or even whole phrases to easily extract specific information. This means less manual handling of documents, no more rifling through filing cabinets to find information and crucial data, such as the outcome of similar cases, available at just a few keystrokes.
2. Automated workflows
A law firm has to create, review and manage a huge number of documents, and organisations often use clear, predetermined and structured workflows to ensure this is done to established protocols. When these workflows are automated and robotic process automation (RPA) is implemented, this can bring a number of efficiency benefits:
- Less time doing high-volume, low-value, routine tasks: For law firms that produce a lot of contracts, for example, workflow automation combined with RPA can help fill out standard contract templates so these can be produced efficiently. Administrative work also lends itself well to workflow automation, helping to reduce the time employees spend on non-billable work.
- Streamlined review and approval processes: With e-signatures and secure, automated approval processes, documents can be sent to relevant parties digitally, so everyone can be confident all the right people have given their approval and nothing important has been overlooked.
- Greater adherence to security compliance and regulations: Workflow automation ensures best practice is applied in all instances, helping to eliminate risk and human error.
3. Cloud content management solutions
As law firms have adapted to remote working practices, off-site access has become key to ensuring employees can still access business information securely from home. Even after the pandemic, many firms will likely continue to offer remote working to their employees, so off-site access will remain a key part of the strategic puzzle.
Many law firms have already moved away from storing paper documents physically, to an on-premise document management system (DMS). But a cloud content management solution offers many advantages to an on-premise DMS:
- Easy access: A secure cloud content management solution allows authorised employees to access, share and collaborate effectively on documents from anywhere, without the overhead of maintaining VPNs – all you need is a working internet connection.
- Reduced costs: With an on-premise DMS, firms have to pay for setup, hardware (such as expensive servers to host the data), software licences and maintenance. With a cloud solution, you typically pay a one-time implementation cost and then a monthly fee based on the number of users.
- Greater security: Cloud solutions are highly secure, providing a built-in infrastructure and disaster recovery mechanism to ensure no single source of failure will shut down the system. This means greater security measures are built into the platform, providing faster responses to emerging threats and more agile bug fixes.
4. Digital archiving and file management
As a law firm, it is essential that your digital files are stored in a legally compliant manner. This means not simply saving files in a folder, but making sure that files are archived according to strict regulatory compliance in a secure and well-structured manner.
Digital archiving and file management with a content services solution ensures:
- Secure storage and retrieval of digital content
- Revision-proof archiving with version control
- Protection of sensitive data from unauthorised access
- Secure integration with IT applications
- Compliance with document retention policies
- Destruction of documents in accordance with privacy rules
The time for “big strategic decisions” is now
The “2021 Australia: State of the Legal Market” report says that despite the remarkable recovery in the Australian market in FY 2021, firms must now make “big strategic decisions” on how to deploy technology to ensure their best opportunities for future growth. If your law firm wants to drive efficiency and increase profitability, implementing intelligent content services and business automation solutions should be a key part of your strategy.
Businesses are handling more documents and data than ever before, and many are struggling to keep up. The answer lies in automating workflow management using modern technologies such as Content Services solutions to drive efficiency and business growth. Download the ebook today.