A New Approach To Legal Service: Leveraging Technology To Streamline Legal Processes

The never-ending pursuit of innovation has encouraged many industries to engage with technological possibilities, and the legal industry is no exception. Law firms are often said to be lagging behind current trends in the use and adaptation of technology. Lately, there has been a shift in the paradigm. Legal tech has become increasingly more sought- after, especially since the pandemic. The idea is to do away with the traditional methods and develop innovative strategies that will make legal services widely accessible and easier to navigate. At CQ legal, going digital has been an invaluable strategy to the firm’s success as we identified practice areas to leverage and implement technology across the firm’s operations.
Here are a few strategies that the team has been exploring:

 

i. Data Management

Data collection is a key part of the legal service. Law firms deal with multiple classes of data in high volume every day, ranging from various specified industries. Today, technology presents an advanced option for storing all your data on a cloud server and allowing easy data sharing. The seemingly perennial concern that in-house servers are more reliable than the cloud servers is no longer the case. Cloud servers offer end-to-end encryption, backup servers as well as remote access to authorized personnel providing the kind of redundancy incomparable by in-house servers. This way there is minimal risk of data loss or a data breach. Cloud technology also cuts operational costs as management is not allocating resources to constantly upgrade and maintain aging software. Moreover, scalability comes at little to no cost. Data storage, processing ability and networking can all be scaled using the already available cloud technology. There is no need to update or incur more data management expenses as the firm grows. Cloud-based law firms have the advantage of growing the business with probable and steady data management costs.

 

ii. eDiscovery

eDiscovery is the electronic method of identifying, gathering and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in a litigation. eDiscovery software provides search engines that seek to eliminate the monotony of legal research and information management. Using the right eDiscovery tools is very secure as it employs an auto-redaction feature that omits sensitive content from a file in compliance with necessary privacy laws, all the while, maintaining the ingenuity of the contents of a document and a paper trail of all redactions made for context and justification. When a firm is able to identify the necessity of eDiscovery technology and implement the right solutions, litigators are notably able to accelerate the discovery process while saving money and collecting and converting reliable data.

 

iii. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Clients are the core players of a law firm. Therefore, client acquisition and satisfaction are the central values and mission of any firm. The introduction of CRM software automates all the processes relevant to marketing, sales and customer service ensuring a hustle-free flow. The use of a centralized database of customer information streamlines communication between the firm and customers. With a large clientele it is necessary to have a comprehensive solution for keeping and organizing customer records eliminating duplicate data entries. Outside the typical CRM software, technology has introduced social media as a channel to reach clients on a worldwide scale. Digital marketing strategies like this will boast a law firm’s online visibility generating new businesses for the firm.

 

iv. e-Billing

Legal e-Billing is the process of automating the review and approval (or rejection) of invoices received by the corporate legal department. It also requires the law firm to submit invoices in LEDES format, to capture detailed information about the work being billed. Legal e-billing systems allow the corporate legal team to set up rules by which incoming invoices are automatically reviewed and approved, rejected, or flagged for further review. Savings from this area alone are usually at least 5% of legal spend in the first year. e-Billing produces an electric file, specific to legal. It contains not only the invoice header, matter information and bill totals, but a detailed breakdown of timelines, timekeepers and expenses coded against tasks, activities and expenses. A legal-specific e-Billing solution is essential to capture this level of detail; standard accounts payable (AP) systems cannot capture this.

 

v. Matter management

Matter management is the process of gathering, tracking, assigning and reporting on legal work including matter name, type, legal service providers and in-house counsel working on the case, budgets and invoices. A matter can be a simple task requested of corporate counsel, or a complex legal project. Matter management enables more effective organisation, collaboration and reporting of a legal department’s work and associated costs. Matter management tools and their functionality vary greatly, but at a bare minimum they need to go beyond basic document storage and collaboration features to allow both in-house and external counsel to open matters of various types, assign budgets and billing guidelines, assign timekeepers to matters and sub-tasks, and report on who worked on what, for how long. Efficiency can be further improved by using a matter management tool that integrates with tools the legal department is already using on a daily basis, like Microsoft. Other features include Request for Proposal (RFP) tools, law firm reviewing functionality, and integration with contract or document management systems. Matter management systems work best when used with legal spend management or legal e-Billing software, as granular information on legal costs can be tied to the matter for more insightful reporting. The security certifications of matter management software in use must also be considered, due to the sensitive nature of legal matter data.

 

vi. Smart contracts

“Smart contracts” is a term used to describe computer code that automatically executes all or parts of an agreement and is stored on a blockchain-based platform. The code can either be the sole manifestation of the agreement between the parties or might complement a traditional text-based contract and execute certain provisions, such as transferring funds from Party A to Party B. The code
itself is replicated across multiple nodes of a blockchain and, therefore, benefits from the security, permanence and immutability that a blockchain offers. That replication also means that as each new block is added to the blockchain, the code is, in effect, executed. If the parties have indicated, by initiating a transaction, that certain parameters have been met, the code will execute the step triggered by those parameters. If no such transaction has been initiated, the code will not take any steps. The input parameters and the execution steps for a smart contract need to be specific and
objective. In other words, if “x” occurs, then execute step “y.” Therefore, the actual tasks that smart contracts are performing are fairly rudimentary, such as automatically moving an amount of cryptocurrency from one party’s wallet to another when certain criteria are satisfied. As the adoption of blockchain spreads, smart contracts will become increasingly complex and capable of handling sophisticated transactions. Indeed, developers already are stringing together multiple transaction steps to form more complex smart contracts.

 

vii. Social media

Recently, the High Court of Ghana has in a ruling recognized and approved the use of Facebook and WhatsApp messaging apps for substituted service . In the 2021 Supreme Court Election petition , witnesses were able to give testimony via zoom and other remote conferencing technology. It would seem that Ghana is also keeping up with emerging trends- albeit at a slower rate. As it stands, Ghanaian law firms can be certain that applications to the Court for substituted service by Facebook and WhatsApp messaging apps and other social applications will not be struck out for reasons of unfamiliarity with accepted practice and convention. The Courts have (by the decided cases supra) opened the avenue for these alternative means of service to be employed. Law firms can therefore take advantage of this.

 

viii. Virtual internships

Conventionally, people interested in the legal sector gain work experience on-site at law firms. By embracing technology, CQ Legal seeks to introduce a new approach to work experience. Offering virtual internships that allows prospects take part in a substantial legal work experience program online in the comfort of their homes. This approach overcomes multiple barriers to entry and makes the program accessible to anyone across the world. Thus, building a wider professional network.

 

Digital transformation of the legal processes is only going to increase in pace seeing as technological advancement is certain to reform the way in which legal services are assessed and delivered. It is key to not lose out on the potential of being more productive and efficient and contribute to competitive advantage while maintaining a client-centric culture.

 

[1] IFS Financial Services Limited v Jonathan Mensah & Anor [1]

[2] Mahama v Electoral Commission and Another (J1/05/2021) [2021] GHASC 12 (04 March 2021)

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