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Technology

Why law firm leaders must be the shepherds of their firms’ digital transformation

Colleen Scimeca  Sr. Product Strategist, Legal

Colleen Scimeca  Sr. Product Strategist, Legal

2020 was a strong catalyst for law firm digital transformation. In the years prior, even a gold standard cloud business case could not persuade firm leadership to pivot from on-premises to an IT cloud strategy. Lawyers shifting from a corporate office to a home office, the necessity of having everywhere access to information (client files, firm know-how, financials), and continually crashing virtual private networks (VPNs) catapulted the legal digital revolution.

If you are in a leadership position and your firm has not pivoted to the cloud, this should concern you.

This transformation impacts every aspect of your firm, including:

  • Its long-term vision
  • Its focus on operational excellence
  • Employee and customer experiences
  • Innovative growth

Your firm probably has — or should have — detailed succession planning around who will be the next managing partner or who will sit on the compensation committee in order to ensure the firm has subsequent leaders to direct and grow the firm for many years to come. Besides deciding future leadership options, your firm needs to plan, and eventually implement, the supporting legal IT technical direction for the healthy operation of the firm and the client experience.

You might be thinking, “why should I care?” I’m a partner, not an IT person or techie. Ultimately, legal digital transformation at your firm is a leadership-driven business decision. In 2021, lawyers do not just practice law. Law, as an industry, has transformed into using enabling legal-IT software. The experience of your employees, both lawyers and business professionals, and that of the customer is the heart of the digital transformation.

For lawyers, how do we leverage legal-IT so we push the low-level grunt work to technology, which we monitor, and focus on the higher, value-add legal thinking? For your customers or clients, legal digital transformation helps improve the relationship in terms of collaborative information sharing and a better legal service delivery experience.


In the IDC Worldwide Semiannual Digital Transformation Guide, experts stated that the worldwide spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation would reach $1.97 trillion in 2022.


While a little late to the digital transformation party compared to the finance and health industries, legal, like most other industries, is fully committed to digital transformation.

To best illustrate this, let’s look ahead to what the legal industry will look like in 5 to 10 years in just two areas: client expectations and law software companies’ legal products.

Client expectations

Your corporate law department clients have been transitioning to the cloud. If they are smaller corporate law departments, many have taken advantage of having the legal software as a service (SAAS) technologies the large corporate law departments use but at a smaller subscription price. If they are large corporate law departments, many have implemented replacement legal SAAS solutions to eliminate the over-customized, older bespoke systems created in-house.

Many of their business clients have already transitioned to SAAS software and are sharing it with legal systems such as enterprise contract management systems, human resource information systems (HRISs), customer relationship management systems (CRMs). These business clients expect that their business partner, the law department, resolves its painful legal business issues or closes deals efficiently to accelerate business growth in the most productive manner. They may use SAAS software for intake, deal management, communication, or for the contract lifecycle. Similarly, your corporate law department clients expect their law firms to have the best legal solutions to collaborate in the sharing of information and to have the most productive and efficient legal service delivery model.

Law software companies’ legal products

In 5 to 10 years, many of the companies selling legal products may not support your on-premises operational technologies, such as your time and billing system or document management system. Companies that sell legal products, aka law companies, are receiving funding for innovative cloud legal technologies, not traditional on-premises technologies.

Building law products on the cloud is attractive because they are easier and less time-consuming to update, can integrate seamlessly with other cloud legal products through APIs, and have the capacity to host big data. Integrating big data from multiple sources is integral for creating machine learning and artificial intelligence legal technology. On-premises systems do not have the capacity for big data.

While AI in legal products is still in its infancy and sometimes the promise is not realized. It is only a matter of time — and a couple more generations of tech — before we have a legal-AI-enabled future. Even if it takes much longer for AI in legal to be fully realized, why wouldn’t you want your law firm to head towards innovative legal-IT cloud software as others have done?

Take the lead on your firm’s move to the cloud

As a law firm leader, you have steered your firm into many IT transformations — going from typewriters to office computers and countless other tech advances. Determining when and how to pivot to the cloud, what the success measurements look like, how to gain firm adoption to new processes and technologies, and what the improved client experience will be are all key leadership decisions. IT should sit at the business table helping you with these decisions. Notably, the critical discussions impacting the future or stagnation of the firm should take place at the business table—not the IT table—and, therefore, be led by the business.

To learn more about the cloud, why it should matter to you, and how it can help your firm’s business, watch our on-demand webcast series in partnership with Microsoft Azure. Registration is free for all sessions.

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