In the future we will see lawyers joining forces with IT developers. Even today these distinct professions have started to realise the benefits of working together. As law firms embrace digital transformation, the lines between these professions will become blurred. Culture shifts and new business models will emerge. So what will the IT law firm of the future look like?
Why are law firms getting involved with software development?
In the past, IT departments primarily provided a supporting role to the business operations of law firms, ensuring that technology was running smoothly and fixing issues which arose. But the rapid advances of legal technology over recent years, such as automatic document assembly and machine-assisted review, has led to intelligent software becoming not only a core tool for many lawyers, but even a legal service in its own right, which can be offered to their clients. This transformation of the role IT plays in the legal sector has led to lawyers actively guiding the software development process, either with their in-house IT team or external technology partners, to ensure that the resulting tools are properly customised - or even built from the ground up - for fee earners and clients alike.
How are job roles changing within firms due to the focus on technology?
Although most lawyers are still focusing more on legal codes rather than programming codes, they are working more closely with their IT teams to ensure that software applications are suitable for their needs. As such, they need to have some understanding of what is possible in terms of software development - and, conversely, IT managers require an insight into how lawyers work, so that the applications they build are truly bespoke. Add into this mix knowledge managers, whose duties are shifting towards tech support as a result of digitisation and sophisticated search algorithms, and we can see how the roles within law firms are all changing and, to some extent, merging as a result of the increasing importance of technology.
What do these changes mean for the culture of law firms?
As technology gradually precipitates a paradigm shift in the very workings of law firms, reducing the distinctions between departments and roles, the traditional culture of the legal industry – often viewed as staid and averse to change – is changing dramatically. Leading firms are already embracing some of the forward-thinking cultural trends previously only seen in the IT sector, such as agile/flexible working, less hierarchy and a results-focused work approach. But could this apparent convergence between law firms and technology companies lead to the two entities merging? According to Nathan Hayes, IT Director at Osborne Clarke: “Tech companies and law firms will work together in the future but over the next few decades I think it is more likely for you to see IT companies turn into law firms rather than the other way around due to the different cultures that exist within these different types of businesses.”
What is DevOps and how does this concept fit into law firms?
The term DevOps (derived from Development and Operations) essentially describes a collaborative culture between software developers and users, where applications and tools are designed and updated according to input and feedback from the users. Although the term is applied more specifically to IT departments, the shifting culture in law firms towards creating bespoke software for lawyers and their clients according to changing needs - along with the crossover of traditional roles - exemplifies the essence of the DevOps culture. It also links in with increased agility, both in terms of how lawyers work and how they can tailor their services for modern day clients.
Watch this space for more blogs and podcasts from CenturyLink discussing emerging legal technology trends. To find out how we can help your firm with software development and other IT requirements, please e-mail me:Steven.Harrison@centurylink.com