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Technology increases productivity and efficiency, cuts costs and errors

By Rob Lamberti, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

Legal firms should embrace technological change, including artificial intelligence, to help reduce the burden of mundane tasks, become more efficient and cut costs, says Korbitec president Alan Bass.

He says this allows lawyers to focus more on what they want to do: practise law.

"The opportunities are there to become more efficient, so you get out of the mundane and use your time most productively," he tells AdvocateDaily.com. "Take that educated leap."

Korbitec Inc., a Toronto-based software development company that provides technology products to the Canadian legal profession, offers a key office management tool with its Automated Civil Litigation (ACL) software, which provides document automation for litigation, as well as a task-management system to help lawyers manage timelines and reduce the risk of missing deadlines, explains Bass.

A law firm’s technical currency is a means to attract and retain staff and clients, he says.

"I think when AI becomes much more mainstream, it will allow lawyers to really use what they want to get paid for — their expertise, opinions and experience," says Bass.

He says the legal profession feels inundated with the amount of automation and new technology presented in the past five years following an explosion in the number of startups offering legal tech.

Bass says he believes one reason for the push toward greater efficiencies through technology stems from the 'Gen Y' generation — those born in the 1980s and '90s who grew up tech-savvy — entering the legal profession.

"Clients are getting more demanding and law firms need to strive for efficiencies — either because they’re being forced into alternative billing arrangements or those on flat rates are being squeezed by what the clients are willing to pay for legal services," he says.

The drive to lower costs is demanding greater efficiencies in performing mundane tasks, including filling out forms and maintaining schedules, Bass says.

"Those two factors are why in the past decade we have seen a rapid pace in technological innovation for legal," he says. "I’m sure there are some fresh legal grads who are saying, 'I didn't go through three years of law school, a year of articling, write the bar, and get called to the bar to do document review.’

"That's something that can be done with software," Bass says. "They didn't go through all their education to spend 45 minutes formatting a back page either. In the 'olden days,' lawyers had assistants, who would do all the mundane production work."

Now it’s more common for three or four lawyers to share an assistant and it often means a lawyer is forced to do legal documents with no one to format it, he says.

"I've met many junior associates who look at our software and can’t believe how quickly it accomplishes the paperwork and formatting,” Bass says. "There are so many examples of that and is perhaps why there's been so much innovation in the past few years.

"I think because of the onslaught of legal tech, many firms have asked how much can they on-board, how much can they train staff at one time," he says. "I think there are more lawyers in smaller firms saying they don't have time to understand it all and can’t make a proper and well-informed decision."

Making an error can be costly, "so firms freeze and do nothing," Bass says.

It's unlikely a firm would rely on a dial-up internet connection and he says the same thinking should apply as it considers adopting new technology. They don't have to be first, but they should keep up, especially if it cuts down on costly inefficiencies, Bass says.

Law firms should determine where the bottlenecks are in their daily operations, what work is repetitive and which technologies and automation could be used to improve efficiency, he says.

"If you're recruiting young associates and your technologies are out of date, they're going to recognize that really quickly," Bass says. "There are tools that firms can adopt to make the ramp-up time faster and that means your new recruits pay for themselves quicker.

"It also applies to clients because if they feel you're not using the most efficient tools out there, they're going to question the efficiency of everything you do," he says.

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