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The future of the legal landscape in Australia

14 September 2020 | Luminance

Clients are expecting more for less – legal tech can help firms deliver

In Australia, the legal ecosystem is quickly evolving as firms and clients realise how AI technology can enhance their work and increase efficiency. This evolution has only been accelerated by the current pandemic, as lawyers have quickly adapted to remote work and increased pressure from clients. These recent challenges build on pre-existing industry concerns around exponentially growing case documentation, which is placing increasing pressure on legal teams. As Mark Rigotti, CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills, stated in a recent Luminance webinar, “on the one hand you have the data exponentially growing, and on the other you have clients wanting more; faster, better, cheaper – there is an opportunity to address both trends through different work practices enabled by cutting-edge technology.” The power of client demand to drive innovation is also noted by Shannon Finch, Partner at Jones Day, who commented that whilst “lawyers might be resistant to change they’re also very conscious of client demands”. Kim Lewis, Legal Transformation Manager at Gilbert + Tobin, echoed this sentiment in a recent webinar with Luminance, explaining that not only are clients expecting more for less, but they are now also “wising up” to the potential of AI, and enquiring into the firm’s existing technology stack.

Legal tech bridges the gap for remote workers

In Australia, law firms have begun reopening their offices while giving staff the option of continuing to work from home and putting in place social distancing measures which limit the number of people in the office at any one time. Remote or flexible working is likely to continue to be a reality for many law firms for the foreseeable future, and so people are “relying a lot more on their IT infrastructure” and turning to “legal tech to bridge the gap" notes Kim Lewis, Gilbert + Tobin. Another firm which used Luminance to enable effective remote collaboration was Jones Day, with one partner at the firm noting that “As soon as our team started using Luminance, there was an instant recognition that this would address our needs. Our team hadn’t had any training on it but within one night, the team was able to use the tool.”

Now more than ever, business continuity depends on implementing the right tech

With growing economic fears as government support and subsidy measures come to a close in September, firms are under increasing pressure to maintain efficiencies and profit margins despite tightening client budgets. Many firms and organizations which did not invest in legal technology have had a harder time adapting since the start of the pandemic. As Kim Lewis at Gilbert + Tobin notes: “Covid has hit people hard where they haven’t invested in technology in a long time. We’re starting to see Covid-19 weed out a few firms in Australia.” She continued that if firms “can make it through this patch, I reckon we’ll see more competitors coming up from places we didn’t expect before,” as legal tech “opens up the floor a bit more” to unexpected players.

Legal tech “opens up the floor” to smaller firms

With technology being key to business continuity, flexible and forward-thinking smaller firms may be strategically placed to compete with larger firms if they can pivot quickly, adopting technology and driving efficiencies. Using technology, firms can quickly scale their operations up and increase efficiency, enabling them to take on larger and more lucrative cases irrespective of their size. As Mark Rigotti, CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills, notes, “technology assisted-working levels the playing field”, enabling smaller firms or ALSPs to challenge established behemoths of the legal industry.

Preparing for the “shifting sands” of the future

Covid-19 has fundamentally shifted working practices in the legal industry and driven increased tech adoption. Mark Rigotti notes that whilst “the future of work used to be on the horizon, it’s now a whole lot closer…”. As we move towards a post-Covid legal landscape, the flexibility and scalability of AI and advanced legal tech can help firms and organizations in Australia strengthen their position in the market. If Covid-19 has proven one thing, it is that the future is unpredictable, and whilst Rigotti recognizes that “you can’t predict how a law firm will look in ten years,” one thing you can do is “build the capability to adapt to the shifting sands of the future,” by investing early in adaptable technology and drive organisational resilience.

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