Law firms not yet embracing ‘cutting edge’ technology

David Snell
David Snell

Law firms are embracing commonplace, but not cutting edge, technologies, according to a new study by PwC.

The professional services network’s 2017 Law Firms’ Survey suggests that firms understand the value of technology, but many are not keeping pace with cutting edge technologies or growing client expectations.

Over 70 per cent of UK law firms are already investing in client collaboration tools, the survey found, and around 40 per cent offer mobile apps and use automated document production to drive performance improvements.

However, only 11 per cent are utilising the opportunities of big data and predictive analytics, while more sophisticated technologies like smart contracts and blockchain are barely featuring.

David Snell, leader of PwC’s law firms’ advisory group, said “fundamental action” is needed to future-proof the legal sector.

He added: “Technology will impact all areas, from client service delivery to business support and, importantly, staff recruitment and retention.

“At the moment, the focus seems to be on updating or replacing old systems. Firms need to be more agile in embracing emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) which will ultimately help them achieve more effective staffing levels and react faster to changing client demands.

“It is advances such as these that will help set them apart from their competitors in an increasingly competitive marketplace. ll this will require significant investment and firms need to think carefully as to how this will be funded.”

The landscape in the UK legal sector remains difficult as a result of ongoing economic uncertainty together with growing competition from new entrants and US firms, which are proving strong rivals in terms of attracting talent.

While 70 per cent of firms achieved fee income growth, this was an average increase of around 3 per cent, and half of firms saw UK profits decrease.

Recruiting, developing and retaining top talent remains a top priority for boards. With mobility and flexibility highly regarded by employees and future recruits, PwC notes over 70 per cent of firms have delivered or embarked on remote and mobile working, although this is not yet a “cultural norm”.