On Wednesday CTS, a leading managed service provider (MSP) in the UK, announced that it was investigating a cyberattack which wiped out access to case management systems for hundreds of law firms.
The attack, which has left anywhere between 80 and 200 law firms without access to core systems, has had far reaching consequences for both lawyers and their clients, many of whom have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction.
This incident highlights just how sorely needed a legal tech overhaul is, both in the UK and globally. For years now, we’ve been speaking to solicitors whose main bugbear is, despite massive leaps in technology, law firms in particular are falling behind in leveraging systems that could save them a lot of time and headaches when it comes to admin and customer service.
The big question is…
Why is the legal sector so resistant to tech?
Recently, we built Lawrence the AI Paralegal, who very much captured the imagination of legal professionals everywhere. While some were excited about the potential for Lawrence as an AI co-pilot for solicitors, others expressed fear and concern, even going so far to describe Lawrence as a ‘psychopath’ due to his lack of empathy. Eek!
Lawrence was an experiment on our part to understand how the legal landscape could be reshaped by technology. The main thrust being not to replace solicitors and lawyers, but to find a way to make their jobs easier.
After all, no one decides to pursue a career in law because of their burning desire to do tedious admin or wrangle with outdated computer systems. By and large, people practise law because they want to make a living by helping people, which we think is a noble pursuit.
Lawrence is, in fact, what we might call the potential ‘next gen’ of our current tech platform, which was inspired by fellow disruptors like AirBnb and Monzo. The platform in its current state is currently used by a vast team of forward thinking lawyers to take the leg work out of their legal work, helping them to save time, work with more clients and deliver a higher level of customer service.
It’d be remiss of us to say law firms haven’t adopted any new technology over the years. They most certainly have. But, more recently, there seems to be an innate fear of blue sky thinking we have harnessed in the Lawhive platform when it comes to digital transformation. But why?
Preserving the status quo
One reason for this resistance could be down to the fact that the legal profession's roots go back decades to the 13th century.
Now, we’re not suggesting that attitudes are still as archaic as they were in the 1200s (at least for the most part), however it is certainly possible that the attitude of “Well, we’ve always done things this way before and it’s worked out fine” prevails even in the face of massive technological changes.
Fear of tech replacing humans
There’s been no end of chatter about how AI could replace humans in the future. But as our experiment with Lawrence found, this isn’t the direction technology is likely to take. As we all know, the law is nuanced and complex but it’s also very human and often steeped in emotion.
For this reason, we need humans to take the wheel when it comes to human facing legal work. But, lawyers don’t need to be bogged down in the drudgery of paperwork and admin when a fully qualified AI assistant could do it for them in a fraction of the time.
While we fully understand the hesitance to embrace AI solicitors, there seems no real reason why firms shouldn’t be biting the hand off of new technology that streamlines the work of a human lawyer and frees them up to do the work they love, rather than the low-skill, boring work they most definitely didn’t join the profession for.
Reduction of billable hours
If you’ve worked for a law firm, you’ll know all about billable hours. You’ll also know that the concept of billable hours often flies in the face of efficiency.
This is another classic example of legacy trumping progress, in particular within traditional law firms where working faster equals fewer billable hours. But as we’ve alluded to throughout this article, the times are a’changing. Last year, Legal Futures reported that a quarter of lawyers could work at fee-share firms within three years.
More lawyers are waking up to the fact that there are viable alternatives to the traditional law firm out there that don’t shackle them to the ball and chain of billable hours, which means they could embrace time-saving tech to get their work done quicker and subsequently open more files every month.
However, this is perhaps not the full story as a quick scan of the Glassdoor reviews of many different law firms shows mounting dissatisfaction with IT systems with employees and consultants routinely complaining they “aren’t fit for purpose.”
As a result, it doesn't look like there is one good reason why the legal industry is slow on the uptake when it comes to new tech. Rather, it’s a perfect storm of misguided attitudes, fear, and tradition which is crippling some in their ability to do great work supported by digital transformation.
The future won’t wait
If there’s one thing this recent cyberattack shows, it’s that the future waits for no man, or law firm.
Technology will continue to grow and transform whether we like it or not, and the demand for better user experiences delivered by computer systems and technology will only get louder amongst employees and clients.
This is evidenced by the fact that, in recent years, even banks have realised they need to get up to speed with digital transformation to avoid being left behind. Forerunners like Monzo, Starling Bank and Revolut recognised just how effective technology could be in improving financial services, and now many high street banks are scrambling to catch up to avoid losing customers to these new tech-forward young bucks.
When it comes to the law it’s important for firms to understand that it’s not just their clients they are serving - it’s their solicitors and lawyers too. Arguably the lifeblood of a firm, solicitors and lawyers are growing increasingly restless in the face of legacy technology systems that routinely go down, malfunction, or are just too clumsy and inconvenient to use.
How we are changing the game
I’ve been watching the legal landscape closely for a few years now, observing many examples of the things I’ve mentioned above play out on both a small scale and much larger stages. It has seemed for a while now that the whole profession has been toeing a tipping point, but it's the lawyers and solicitors who are driving for change, not the big wigs at the top.
Which stands to reason really. Big traditional firms have no incentive to change when their operations have been lining the pockets of wealthy partners for hundreds of years. And, of course, even fee share firms that have popped up seem committed to rebuilding in the image of their forefathers, rather than committing to changing the landscape for everyone.
We’re proud to say we’re different. And we mean it. We’re neither ‘old money’ or ‘old law.’ The archaism of “Well, we’ve always done things this way” doesn’t sit well with us. We think the legal landscape is broken in 2 ways:
It works lawyers to the bone for very little reward;
It’s often only accessible to a privileged group of people, rather than everyone.
And here’s the kicker, we’re techies, which means we aren’t afraid of trying out new technologies to try and fix that in favour of everyone. We don’t give a toss about billable hours or targets, what matters to us is that our solicitors and lawyers can do their work quickly, look after their clients, and get paid in a timely manner for it - all in one place.
As a result of this, when all about were losing their heads because of the CTS cyberattack, our solicitors saw no interruption, because our cutting-edge platform, which features a super reliable CMS and client portal, boasts an impressive 99.99% uptime.
To avoid disruptions like this in the future, the rest of the legal world needs to catch up and see the potential of technology to change the game.
Until then, if you’re a lawyer looking for a new opportunity as a consultant, why not join Lawhive and see how our forward thinking legal tech platform can transform your practice, freeing you from the tedious admin so you can focus on the human aspect of client work that technology will never be able to match.