There are some objections to the widespread adoption of technology in the legal profession, but none of them should stand in the way of inevitable progress – because “the longer firms wait to fully embrace technology, the further behind they’ll be,” warns Daniel Diamond.
“Technological advancement, no matter how positive, usually encounters some resistance,” says Diamond, head of business development at Alexi. “Some people are naturally averse to change, because it takes time and effort to adapt, even if that adaptation eventually makes them stronger. The most successful firms we’ve seen are the ones that shift their gaze from how things are done, and look forward to how they could be done.”
A good first step in adopting legal technology is recognizing the value in automating processes that don’t require your most valuable asset: your time. Legal research is a perfect example of work that should be automated. Hunting down and reviewing cases can take anywhere from 2-6 hours for a single research issue, and the lawyer is then left with undesirable options: bill the client for the time, which can lead to them taking issue with paying for their lawyer’s self-education; write off some or all of those hours and potentially miss out on their quota for the day; or skip research altogether because they’re mostly sure they know what the law is.
Completing legal research by leveraging artificial intelligence, such as a platform like Alexi that delivers answers to legal questions in memo format in minutes of work not hours, achieves massive time-savings, greatly increases accuracy and alleviates having to choose the best of those three bad options. And while Alexi has seen widespread adoption right across Canada and now into the USA, Diamond still encounters some resistance to this type of change, including firms that are reluctant to spearhead the adoption of something new. The firms that lag behind prefer the cautious approach and wait for others to use a product first.
“New technology relies upon innovators at the beginning, and early adopters become more efficient than their competitors,” Diamond says. “A law firm can gain a huge competitive advantage if their lawyers bill out up to 10 hours a day while their competitors are billing six, or if they can draft contracts, do research and obtain documents in 1/10 of the time. Their lawyers can increase the firm’s profitability and have better work-life balance in the process.”
Another objection Diamond hears from the firms that lag in adoption is simply that things have always been done a certain way and the firm is comfortable with their existing level of productivity, ROI per employee or existing profit margin – but the firms that do adapt, tend to advance in all three of those current metrics.
Fighting against the steady forward march of technology ultimately only makes it harder to catch up to the firms who saw the writing on the wall and took action, and in Diamond’s experience the most resistant lawyers tend to be the ones who view their firm as only a law firm as opposed to a business. But as they debate whether or not they should take the plunge, their competitors are drawing more business with increasingly streamlined and efficient processes.
“Even if a way of doing things has been working, it can always work better: that’s why it’s called technological ‘advancement,’” Diamond says. “As soon as you start prioritizing business objectives and the need for profit and growth, legal tech starts looking much more attractive.”
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Alexi provides high-quality answers to complex legal questions at scale. We are a team of AI scientists and lawyers advancing the state-of-the-art in how artificial intelligence is being applied to the law.
Original article in Canadian Lawyer by Mallory Hendry