In the new year, a lot of talk turns to the trends of the year to come. With so much talk of where things are headed, it is a great opportunity for law firms to take a closer look at potential options, technology, and processes that will improve practices. This year is no different, and with that comes four predictions for trends in the legal industry for 2016, and how likely they are to take off in the coming months.
- Going Paperless
It has been predicted that law firms can be paperless within a span of five years. This is very appealing to those in the industry, as it means less physical space is required for storage and other operations that are paper-related. An additional benefit is that electronic data storage is a much cheaper alternative to physical storage.
Law firms receive a considerable amount of paper documents, including discovery information, medical records, and mail, and they’re required by law to retain the information for as long as seven years. In order for the legal industry to successfully go paperless, processes would have to be redefined, and there would be necessary investments in such resources as scanners, additional workforce, and additional software. Billing practices would also need to be moved to an electronic platform, which presents a few of its own concerns.
This trend rates a 2.5 out of 5 as far as probability is concerned. There is much talk of the completely paperless trend, but it is more achievable to take smaller steps towards this goal. The process should start by digitalizing legacy data first, as this will lay the appropriate groundwork for going paperless, as well as create an easy and dependable system for accessing and storing legacy data.
- Alternative Means for Communicating with Clients
Traditional means of communication between lawyers and clients consisted of phone calls, meetings, and paper letters, however, with the advancements in technology leading into 2016, the need to meet face-to-face may be eliminated. Alternative means of communication is undoubtedly a trend for the new year, with alternatives ranging from text messaging to video conferencing.
There are many clear advantages when choosing alternative methods of communication, with the most considerable being the cost savings potential. Improved internet connectivity means flawless video conferencing and enables the face-to-face contact that is so imperative with business meetings. Text messaging and other simplified means of communication allow answers to be provided almost immediately and make contact quick and simple.
This trend rates a 4 out of 5, as the use of newer technologies continues to increase. The technology is not without it’s drawbacks, however, as many of these methods of communication pose privacy concerns.
- Work from Home
In the interest of convenience and cost savings, many lawyers may decide to forgo their fancy office suites in favor of a home office set-up. It is possible to run a successful legal practice from a remote location by incorporating tactics such as visiting clients off-site and virtual meetings. In order to be successful with a home practice, high-speed internet and cloud-based technologies are a definite must.
This trend rates a 5 on the feasibility scale, as it is becoming more commonly accepted for attorneys to practice out of a home-based office. We will undoubtedly see a rise in the number of lawyers practicing from their homes in the coming year.
- Reducing Malpractice Risks
With malpractice insurance rates consistently on the rise, professionals in the industry are always looking for ways to reduce these expenses. Technology, including software that handles conflicts clearance, creates an opportunity to lower malpractice insurance rates. Providers and technology that is HIPAA complaint is becoming more accessible from a price and service point of view.
This trend was rated 4 out of 5 for feasibility, as it is highly likely we will see this as technology and the legal industry converge.
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