Digital transformation: What legal practice managers need to know and do?

July 28, 2016

Digital transformation is changing the way that businesses can operate across a range of industries, and the legal industry is no exception.

Digital transformation is a current hot topic, both locally and globally, but do you know that digital transformation as a concept is still misunderstood by many?

What exactly is “digital transformation”?

At its most basic level, or at its very core, digital transformation is the use of technology to radically improve the performance of an organisation, and this includes its people.

Businesses often think of digital transformation as a formal effort to revamp our vision, models and investments in order to achieve our organisational goals and objectives, and importantly, stay competitive in the modern digital economy and evolving legal landscape.

Digital transformation in the professional services industry

In the professional services space, digital transformation is very much about realigning technology and business models to more effectively engage with our clients and more efficiently deliver our services to them. Legal practitioners would look at every touch point in the client experience lifecycle as well as the matter/transaction lifecycle to identify how we could inject technology to, basically, do things faster and better. 

The real challenge

It is easier said than done. The challenge with digital transformation is not about digital. Digital is typically the more logical, technical and easier part of the equation. The challenge is the part that involves transformation. Investment in technology is not a difficult concept to grasp, and many law firms now have one or more resident legal technology experts and a dedicated legal technology budget; but the real test is how exactly can law firms realign business models in practice. 

The relationship between digital transformation and business processes

Digital transformation has opened up new opportunities for law firms to innovate and streamline business process. To break this down a little and work out how exactly this could be done.

A business process is a collection of linked tasks that delivers a service or a product to a user or customer. For example, in a document production process in conveyancing. Imagine a technological tool that could, among other things, automatically and accurately generate contracts, transfer forms, mortgage discharge documents, revenue office forms and the letters involved in the settlement process. Wouldn't that be a dream for a busy conveyancing practice?

Risk in business processes

The relationship between business processes and risks is a tight one. Risk is an unavoidable business phenomenon. Some risks are inherent in business processes, for example operational risks, technology risk, financial risk, compliance risk, legal risk, information security risk, and health and safety risk. Indeed, business processes of a law firm could be the place where risk materialises.

Digital transformation has offered firms the opportunity to finding new ways to reduce business process risk. 

Easy steps that legal practice managers can take

The essence of digital transformation comes down to people. It is how people's behaviours differ from that of those before them that genuinely matters. To change people's behaviours for digital transformation success, legal practice managers can focus on communicating these two messages:

  • At times, we make mistakes even when we are very skilled and experienced. Human error is a very real risk. It is a threat with the potential to lead to serious consequences.
  • Process digitisation, such as in the form of automation, enables law firms to deploy people to more strategic and high-value tasks. This means, for example, lawyers are happier as they are doing less repetitive tasks and less paper pushing; they are less likely to be in a position to make mistakes; instead, they can use and develop their talent on “real legal work”. This also means management is happier as the workforce is happier, the firm is more competitive and profitable, and importantly, they are well placed to provide exceptional legal services to clients.

You may not realise it, but just by taking steps to deliver and reinforce these two messages is part of a digital strategy, regardless of whether or not you have one clearly articulated and documented. =

As we design or redesign our business processes - this can be from manual to part-automated to fully automated, or from no integration to part-integration to full integration - these messages help create a positive culture that fosters change and to drive digital transformation.

Digital transformation has offered firms the opportunity to finding new ways to reduce business process risk. 

If you would like to find out more about how SAI Global can partner with your firm to reduce business process risk through digital transformation, get in touch with us. 

Benjamin Balk

This article was written by Benjamin Balk.

About Benjamin Balk

Benjamin is General Manager, Product and Marketing for SAI Global's Property Division. With a background in strategy, marketing, sales and product management in a number of information services companies, Benjamin is constantly looking for innovative solutions to solve problems and introduce efficiencies for conveyancers and solicitors and the banking and financial services sector. To find out more about Benjamin Balk, click here.

For more information about how SAI Global's Property Division can help you with your conveyancing or legal practice needs, please visit our website.