Technological advancement 'speak now or forever hold your peace' moment in legal profession

Surge forward in tech, looming massive generational shift means law firms must adapt

Technological advancement 'speak now or forever hold your peace' moment in legal profession

This article was produced in partnership with Alexsei Inc.

When Carraig Law Group LLP opened its doors in January of 2021, its founders sought to leverage technology in a client-centred way, aiming to simplify client interactions with the firm while increasing the accessibility of legal services. Just over a year later, that goal is more critical than ever, says Eoin Logan, partner and co-founder of the downtown Vancouver firm.

“We’re as tech-forward as possible, but in a way that really serves our clients as opposed to using fancy technology for the sake of it,” Logan says. “What’s most helpful varies from practice area to practice area, but we are looking at how technology can assist us to do our work better and help clients reduce legal costs. That's where we’re focusing our attention.”

Before hanging out their own shingle, Logan and fellow partner and co-founder Dermot Devine worked in firms that didn’t utilise technology to its potential, and they often found themselves doing a lot of repetitive, manual tasks. To illustrate the situation, Logan notes the senior founding partner of one of those firms didn’t use a computer for their day-to-day work, “so you can imagine how technologically behind it was there.”

Starting their own firm allowed Logan and Devine to put their minds to what they wanted the practice of law to be, without being tied to the – somewhat antiquated – idea of what a law firm should be. The duo researched the services available through various file management software, such as Clio Legal Software, and saw immediately how helpful it could be. This software has an automation feature where specific information from each file is autogenerated into the firm’s templates and proofread before being sent out, thus reducing the time on tasks and risk of human error made when lawyers must type individual bits of routine information repeatedly.

But given recent events, lawyers no longer have the luxury of debating whether to adopt at least some of the available cutting-edge technological tools. Logan points to practitioners who “didn’t know what virtual meetings were before February of 2020 but are now conducting hearings using Zoom.”

“We’ve seen such a surge forward in technology in the legal profession because of COVID. Some people are ready to adapt, and some are not. But we’re now in a position where lawyers don’t have a choice about paying attention to updates in technology and how it’s going to affect our practice – everyone has to get onboard with it.”

Technology integration also enables greater access to justice, and Brogan Pastro, associate at Carraig Law Group, says it’s no secret that legal aid clients in family law are “often on society’s margins and often facing stressful, serious, and life-long implications in the court room.” Legal Aid BC provides 35 hours for the lawyer to do as much with the file as possible, which means every second of billable time that can be shaved off with automation is a major value-add.

“A business is one thing, but losing custody of your children is something completely different,” Pastro says. “If I can add an extra hour of legal thinking time to my client’s file by using automation in some areas of the file, that’s by definition an access-to-justice win.”

Family law lawyers have a great motivation to increase efficiency. One easy target for time savings is the average 2-4 hours spent researching a legal issue. Platforms like Alexsei use advanced Artificial Intelligence to deliver affordable and high-quality answers to legal questions in memo format, helping to preserve a lawyer’s most valuable resource – time – by automating that research. Logan first heard of Alexsei through Pastro, and he initially had “the classic lawyer reaction to it.”

“But once Brogan showed me the ropes on how to submit a memo and I saw the product that came back, I was no longer apprehensive, to say the least. It’s a fantastic way to get the information we need to the clients and then focus on the core issues on their file, discussing strategy and how to move forward as opposed to spending hours of leafing through case after case to see whether it’s been overturned or whether it really applies.”

Pastro agrees, adding that Alexsei also provides quality control by allowing him to – when he comes to a conclusion himself – cross-reference his findings with the results of an Alexsei search to confirm he’s on the right track. And being quick and affordable, it helps him deliver the most efficient and impactful service possible to his clients.

“Once again with the access-to -justice component, I would rather spend the $300 in a disbursement out to my client than waste five hours finding the same conclusion clicking though cases at my prevailing legal aid rate,” Pastro says. “It comes back to the fact that if I can automate the more time-consuming elements of my practice, I can spend more concrete time with my clients cultivating a relationship and dealing with legal strategy.”

Getting straight to the legal issues is, after all, what people are hiring the firm to do, Logan notes, adding ultimately Alexsei “helps us get down to brass tacks with the client.” Assessing the way in which legal services are delivered to clients should be a key area of concern for law firms, especially given the massive generational shift coming in the next 20 years and how younger clients use technology. Pastro says embracing technology now will allow law firms “to better and more realistically serve the needs of Millennials who are now coming into their own.”

Many of Pastro’s friends share their frustrations over hiring lawyers reluctant to embrace technology, one friend being unable to do a bank transfer with the firm who was handling his matter due to the technology not being set up. But Pastro says he didn’t have a good answer for his friend, other than to admit the profession hasn’t embraced technology the way the new generation expects it ought to.

“From a client service standpoint, it’s a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace moment for law firms nowadays,” says Pastro.

When it comes to weaving technology into his practice where it makes sense, Logan recognizes it’s an evolving journey and not a destination, but he doesn’t see the firm’s approach changing.

“We set the firm up to embrace as much technology as possible in a way we’re comfortable with, and we’re already leaps and bounds ahead of where we came from,” Logan says. “We aim to keep up as best we can with the fast-moving technology as it goes forward.”

 

Alexsei 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.

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