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article imageThe role technology will play in democratizing access to justice Special

By Tim Sandle     Jan 1, 2021 in Business
Legal firms that embrace a digital-first mentality will be best placed to embrace the challenges that 2021 will deliver, says expert George Psiharis. He shares his thoughts in the transformation of the legal sector.
To gain an insight into 2021's legal trends, Digital Journal caught up with Clio’s COO, George Psiharis. The analyst considers what the future of the legal industry looks like, and the role digital technology will play in democratizing access to justice.
The Future of Legal is Here, and Those Who Don’t Get on Board Will Be Left Behind
According to Psiharis, 2020 was a year of change and more change is to come: "Like other industries, the legal industry unexpectedly took a toll during 2020, and most lawyers and small firms had to make quick decisions to accommodate the needs of their clients and manage the new remote reality. For many, this included transitioning to a hybrid of cloud-first practices and re-examining the packaging and delivery of their services."
He adds: "While lawyers are making headways in adoption - in fact, our 2020 Legal Trends Report showed that lawyers are adopting tech at a faster rate than consumers believe they are - not all of the legal industry has committed to digital transformation."
Drawing out why digital transformation will be essential, Psiharis says: "It’s simple: firms that embrace a digital-first mentality will be in a position to better serve a wider clientele and see more success than firms that are slower to adapt. Given that clients are calling for it (56 percent of consumers believe that most legal matters can be dealt with remotely and 67 percent say they prefer lawyers who can share documents electronically), this shift is necessary to provide an improved client experience. Those who don’t embrace the future of the industry - one that is tech-driven and client-centric - will get left behind."
Fully Embracing Cloud Technology will Democratize the Legal Industry
In terms of the functionality of the cloud, Psiharis explains: "As law firms continue to adopt new technologies, the transition from on-prem to fully cloud-driven will be a crucial step in democratizing a once somewhat bureaucratic industry. Cloud technologies will open up more opportunities to adopt more flexible, on-demand business models for law firms that are tailored to the needs of their clients. It will also allow for online billing and automated payment plans, which will give way for more flexible payment options that make legal services more affordable. Illustrating the need for this flexibility, our 2020 Legal Trends Report showed that 78 percent of consumers report that payment options are something they want to see from lawyers."
There are further advantages too: "Not only will this benefit clients, but knocking down these accessibility barriers will open up new markets for lawyers, especially at a time when we anticipate a wave of COVID-related lawsuits around unemployment, tenant rights, bankruptcy and more."
Increased Tech Adoption Lessens the Need for the Brick and Mortar Law Office
Remote working is here to stay, adds Psiharis: "Given the continued resurgence of COVID-19 cases, lawyers can’t be physically in the office anymore - but do they still need to be? According to our 2020 Legal Trends Report, 21 percent of firms already operate without commercial office space; 7 percent let go of their office space since the start of the pandemic, and 12 percent are unsure if they will maintain their commercial office in the future. In 2021, as the legal industry continues to move toward digital-first offerings, the need for physical infrastructure will be reduced."
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