- Digital Transformation
- Reading Time 10 Min.
In 50 years Google will answer any legal question immediately:
Bank: „Google, the Securities Companies Compensation Fund sent me a contribution notice for 2070 in the amount of 43.5 million euros. Is that contestable?“
Google: „Yes. The correct contribution amounts to 8.3 million Euros only.“
Bank: „Thank you, Google! In 2019 my law firm charged 27.000 Euros such an answer.“
Google: „I know. That’s why lawyers are extinct since 2065.“
The Understanding of the Digital Transformation
Is this the future of law? Maybe, but that doesn't really matter, because all these "in 50 years everything will be different“-visions do not help law firms and legal departments to master digital transformation now. Instead, to get on top of the digital transformation it is vital to understand its origins and nature.
The digital transformation of the industry in general and of law in particular is not a plan. There wasn’t a specific problem that a group of visionary innovators wanted to solve. As so often, when humanity makes great technical progress, the transformation was simply driven by young entrepreneurs who dreamed to somehow use the new technological possibilities to build successful businesses. Faster processors and internet connections have enabled completely new business models. So it all just started because the technology had evolved and made it possible.
Making yourself aware that the digital transformation does not proceed in structured ways will help to better understand why it is so difficult to grasp and comprehend. And that´s why the digital transformation of your law firm and your legal department is not a straight line. It's more of a messy march with bumps in the road, permanent ups and downs, and detours.
To prepare your law firm and your legal department for the digital transformation it is vital to realize that there is no “one-fits-all-plan”. There are many factors to keep in mind. To identify them, you will need to carefully analyse the actual state of your firm/department.
This understanding is the starting point to master the transformation, improve your legal work and maintain your competitiveness.
Now comes the Benefit
In the early years it was more about visions and what could be. By now, the specific benefits of digitisation are becoming more visible. More and more tools which have a clear benefit are emerging. They increase the speed of legal work, save costs or improve the quality of legal work.
Many lawyers think that legal technology is about saving costs and getting faster. And it is. However, the implementation of a software takes a lot of time and money. Two or three years might pass before your investment pays off. What you achieve first is an increase in quality! In fact the first benefit you get from deploying legal tech is preventing mistakes and improving (legal) documents. For example, if you have implemented a contract generation software, you will immediately receive consistent contracts with verified terms at a uniform quality level.
Still, it will be years, until every lawyer sees the benefits of legal technology. It is our job from now on to find and make use of these benefits for our law firm and our legal department. We have to start immediately, because it takes years to create the necessary framework and the requirements to profit from the new technology. It takes years, for example, to develop the necessary mindset for the transformation of your firm and department and to create and implement the necessary organisation and workflows to make the best use of innovative legal tech tools.
So, if you start in five years, when everybody will see the advantages, it will be too late. Then you will already have risked your competitiveness. Now is the time to try out new approaches and to experiment.
Check your Processes
To make the most of legal technology requires a lot of know-how. One piece of knowledge, however, is particularly significant: For a succesfull transformation it is vital to understand the importance of business processes.
Digital Transformation is about becoming more efficient by saving costs, becoming faster and increasing the quality of your work e.g. by avoiding mistakes. To achieve these goals, it is not enough to just buy software. The successful implementation of legal tech requires that standardized processes and workflows are already in place. As soon as you have proper processes and workflows, it is the right time to use a legal tech tool to digitize and automate them.
Only a good process is worth to be digitized. Creating a good process means putting your client first. Don't be biased by your legal background. Only if you put yourself in the client's shoes, you will be able to develop the best process.
It is worth the effort!
 This article is based on Jochen Brandhoff´s opening keynote speech at the eurolegal Annual Conference in Gdańsk on 26 April 2019.