Legal firms are starting to embrace the disruptive situation in which we live head on, adopting innovative technology to ensure they can meet the challenges of the digital era. During the last year, we’ve seen an incredible appetite for change and much of this can be attributed to the increased confidence in counting on digital technology and the cloud.
According to the latest Advanced Trends Report, legal firms are among the 60% of British businesses that have already made a move to the cloud as part of efforts to operate in a paperless environment. This report followed an intense period of speculation as to how best to embrace digital transformation, when moving data to the cloud was often considered high risk. However the reality is that, although the threats of cyber security and the challenges of data privacy are universal, it’s now recognised that those who have transitioned to a cloud-based solution are best placed to mitigate the associated risks.
In fact, there’s a resounding conclusion that the cloud is the way forward for the legal sector. One major advantage is that it can significantly reduce the amount of paperwork both in the office and in the courtroom. Other benefits include greater mobile access driving workforce flexibility and collaboration right through to supporting business growth with an infrastructure that flexes with the needs of the organisation. And, as businesses strike to marry efficiencies with growth, the cloud removes the need for significant capital expenditure and ensures organisations have an affordable solution that is both available now and fit for the future.
This mirrors the Ministry of Justice’s recent “Transforming our Justice System” consultation paper, which sees the Government committed to investing more than £700 million to modernise courts and tribunals, plus over £270 million in the criminal justice system. The vision is to see the digitisation of the legal sector so that it works even better for everyone, including judges and legal professionals, witnesses, litigants and the vulnerable victims of crime. But, as the paper outlines, it involves a radical change – combining respected traditions with the enabling power of technology.
The Government is already driving processes online. Laserform HUB, for example, allows law firms to digitally submit data to multiple government gateways. Judges and magistrates in the criminal courts are starting to operate online too, enabling the defence, prosecution and courts to work more flexibly and conduct proceedings more efficiently.
Looking forward, the Government intends to extend these advantages even further with the introduction of a structured process of online pleading, and by running “virtual hearings” for lawyers, parties and witnesses to participate in traditional hearings by telephone and video conferencing. This will go beyond the criminal jurisdiction and into the entire system, making the courts more convenient for all.
With cloud technology earmarked to be the driving force in simplifying and modernising case management, the challenge now is for firms to find the right cloud solution and work out the best way to transition their staff and data to a new way of working. Be it private, public, or hybrid, most will need help to develop a plan for change, and execute on the technical front to ensure that their chambers’ or solicitors’ objectives are achieved.
If legal firms are to succeed in going paperless, getting the right cloud technology is important. St John’s Buildings (SJB) – which has long been recognised for its innovative approach to the delivery of advocacy services – has taken the lead in embracing cloud technology to transform the legal system. It has partnered with us to become the UK’s first barrister chamber to introduce a cloud-based document sharing and collaboration tool that enables the secure production, sharing and storage of legal documents.
The solution integrates directly into chambers management software, which provides diary, fees, case management and automatic time recording, enabling SJB to deliver access to legal documents 24 hours a day from any location. Its barristers and clients can access case documents securely and work on them collaboratively, even without an internet connection. The move is set to help SJB become the first paperless chamber in the UK and save the firm up to £350,000 per year whilst dramatically reducing its environmental footprint.
The decision for SJB to introduce electronic document management came as it sought to modernise the way it works in line with the digital revolution taking place across the legal sector. The introduction of ‘less-paper’ working gives SJB’s barristers, who are traditionally mobile workers, the ability to service clients in a secure and flexible environment as well as enhance the speed and reliability of that service.
For any legal business, the cloud can make a positive difference to the way it works and collaborates. It should be seen as a positive disruption – one that can enable them to go paperless and drive major efficiencies. It’s a significant step forward for the industry.
The time is right for the legal sector to embrace cloud technology and take advantage of the benefits it has to offer. The cloud can and should be the backbone to an organisation’s operations – and it’s those that face this change head on that will be best placed to succeed.