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    March 21st, 2022

    Digital Transformation

    ♫ Oh, then won’t you embrace me?… ♫
    — Music and lyrics by Greg Laswell

    What does it mean for law to move into digital transformation? Let’s take a step back and get a bit of perspective.

    At the beginning of time, law firms and courts kept all records on paper. The first step along this transformative path was to convert to electronic records. “Paving the cowpaths” meant that all records were now kept in electronic folder systems that were the electronic version of the file folder — or in other words, “digitalized.” All files were still kept the same and searched by brute force. Similar to paper, all storage and organizational systems were analogous, albeit on a digital platform. This is only slightly transformative since the same ways of thinking were used to handle digital documents as they did with paper.

    To take the next step toward transformation, new ways of doing things must be chosen. Moving to a digital filing system allows for digital searches across the whole database; and it allows for new ways of working as all files can be shared and accessed from home or a remote office.  Practice management software can integrate with the filing and accounting systems, resulting in lawyers working from a digital desktop. In the court situation, case management software can now be used that integrates scheduling with court files, HR systems and more. It is the bringing together of multiple systems in one package that starts to open up new ways of thinking and with it, new processes.

    Salesforce.com’s publication, “State of the Connected Customer,” states that “technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.” For example, portals: secure websites, allow clients to gain access to all communications and documents on their file 24/7 and avoid insecure ways of communicating such as email. Furthermore, they can respond and leave instructions without going through voicemail or email jail.

    The next step will be in applying Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Digital Analytics (“DA”) to law. AI already has revolutionized legal research, legal contract review, as well as litigation case analysis. DA has the promise of providing insights into new services that can be offered to clients by analyzing firm wide data based on client profiles.

    Lastly, we have the transformation of the law via technology. Smart contracts on the Blockchain are an entirely different beast from a traditional contract. “A smart contract is a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code. The code and the agreements contained therein exist across a distributed, decentralized Blockchain network. The code controls the execution, and transactions are trackable and irreversible.

    Smart contracts permit trusted transactions and agreements to be carried out among disparate, anonymous parties without the need for a central authority, legal system, or external enforcement mechanism.” (per Investopedia)

    Disputes over smart contracts can take place via Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) built into the Blockchain using virtual juries. The next step with ODR is to allow the software to help resolve disputes as the deciding party.

    The Blockchain can be used to replace traditional ways of doing things. 20 Real-Life Uses for the Blockchain lists such uses as enforcing copyright; replacing land, automobile and other title transfer systems, medical record keeping, wills, equity trading, tracking prescriptions and many others.  With increased use of the Blockchain will come increased use of ODR and less reliance on traditional court systems. This is the transformative power of technology.

    What is the future use of technology in law? Pega.com states: “Leaders are less concerned about using technology to increase profits, with 46% citing cost savings and 43% citing revenue generation as changes they are trying to achieve. Instead, 65% of leaders see it as an avenue to achieving higher quality work. Fifty percent of the leaders surveyed also believe technology will create more reliable work.”

    In order for law firms and justice systems to move forward, I believe it will be essential for organizations to view technology as a way to change not just the way things are done but HOW you can do things differently and WHY. Digital transformation is about new ways of thinking, changing things and moving to the future. I can just hear technology saying to lawyers and judges: “Oh won’t you embrace me?”

    Now – how do you further your firm down the digital transformation path?

    Cybersecurity

    COVID has only increased our working from home with distributed data sets on multiple devices and entry points into the office network. One way to harden your system is to put all your data in a secure cloud service that stores your data in a fully encrypted manner, where only you have the decryption key (a “Zero Knowledge” service). Cloudwards.net has rated the five best zero-knowledge cloud storage services — with Canada’s sync.com coming up on top.

    Advantages of Sync

    Sync is the strongest encryption possible, it demonstrates to your clients that security is important to you. Sync keeps track of all document versions and changes, you can share and collaborate just like you would with Dropbox, but securely, they state that sync.com meets global data privacy compliance (USA-HIPAA, EU, UK, CAN-PIPEDA) and your data remains in Canada.

    Automating and Integrating Systems

    Technology can automate the business side of the practice. By integrating billing, time keeping, general and trust accounting, calendaring, conflict checking, document automation, email and file integration, case management, and file management, you will set the stage for the next round of automation such as data analytics, AI, and process redesign for effectiveness and efficiency.

    People

    You can install the latest, first-rate tech systems but ultimately it may all be for naught unless you can implement change strategies that lead people to adopt the new systems. Part of the magic of digital transformation is the change in thinking that occurs when people use and think about how the new systems rework business processes. Leadership is the magic elixir. Explain why your firm is adopting these new systems. Outline the expected benefits, for not only the organization but also for staff. Be an early adopter and recruit other early adopters. Communicate wins. Acknowledge setbacks and handle criticism positively and early. Keep your eye on the long-term goal(s) and help others do the same.

    (originally published in PracticeTalk and TechTips, in the Canadian Bar Association’s BarTalk magazine:

    https://www.cbabc.org/BarTalk/Articles/2021/February/Columns/Digital-Transformation

    https://www.cbabc.org/BarTalk/Articles/2021/February/Columns/How-can-you-further-your-firm-down-the-digital-tra)

    This entry was posted on Monday, March 21st, 2022 at 7:00 am and is filed under Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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