Although law firms often talk about innovation, fewer than a third have actually tasked someone within the firm with the responsibility for driving innovation.

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That is among the findings of a new survey, the 2018 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey. published today by Aderant, a global provider of business management software for law firms.

When firms were asked whether they had specifically tasked anyone with responsibility for innovation, 29.7 percent answered yes. Large law firms of 500 or more lawyers were more than twice as likely to have such a person, with 55.9 percent  answering yes.

Whether firms have tasked anyone with innovation, by size.

Firms were also asked about which technologies had the greatest impact on efficiency. The top five technologies that firms said had either a moderate or high impact on efficiency were:

  • Document management, 90%.
  • Time and billing management, 88%.
  • Financial management or ERP, 73%.
  • Mobility and mobile apps, 70%.
  • Business intelligence, 70%.

Technologies found to have the least impact on efficiency were enterprise search, project management, task management, and customer relationship management.

Technology concepts with the greatest potential to drive efficiency.

One interesting question that I do not recall having seen before in a technology survey asked respondents to identify the technology concepts — as opposed to specific technologies — they believed had the greatest potential to drive efficiency. The top five:

  1. Automating routine tasks, 64.2%.
  2. Workflow automation, 54%.
  3. Analytics, 47%.
  4. Integration of existing law firm systems, 34%.
  5. Mobile access to law firm systems, 24.1%.

Given the legal industry’s focus of late on artificial intelligence, it may come as a surprise that only 16.1% identified AI as having the greatest potential to drive efficiency. Other lower-ranking concepts were:

  • Predictive analytics, 7.3%.
  • Cloud-based solutions, 8.8 percent.
  • External collaborative tools, 17.5%.
  • Internal collaborative tools, 18.3%.

Although cloud computing did not rank high as a concept driving efficiency, firms seem to be more open to the cloud, the survey found, with only a quarter saying they were not adopting cloud computing. While surveys often ask about barriers to cloud computing, this survey turned that around and asked what was driving cloud adoption. The top five factors:

  1. Provides better disaster recovery, 50.5%.
  2. Less costly compared to on-premise solutions, 39.1%.
  3. Augments business continuity, 29%.
  4. Better cybersecurity, 27.5%.
  5. Improving features and functionality in cloud products, 25.4%.

In addition to innovation and technology, the survey looked more broadly at the business of law. It found that the legal business climate is improving, with 57 percent of respondents saying that business at their law firm is better or much better than it was in the last 12 months. The larger the firm, the more likely it was to say its business was better.

The top challenges facing firms, the survey found, are pricing, cybersecurity, operational efficiency, technology adoption, and competition.

Alternative fee agreements continue to be used in relatively few matters. Most respondents reported having 20 percent or less of client accounts structured under any arrangement other than the billable hour.

The survey was completed by 138 business and legal professionals at law firms all over the world. Most respondents were not lawyers, but instead held business, technology or financial roles. Ninety-eight percent were from firms of 25 or more lawyers, and 25 percent were from firms of 500 or more lawyers.

The full survey can be downloaded at no cost and with no registration required: The 2018 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey.

Aderant, a provider of business management software for law firms, has acquired Handshake Software, a company that sells SharePoint-based software to law firms for portals, knowledge management, enterprise search and mobility.

Law firms use Handshake’s products to create intranet and extranet portals built using Microsoft SharePoint. It offers pre-defined integrations for many enterprise-level applications commonly used in larger law firms. These integrations make it easy for firms to set up intranets that integrate all of their financial, practice, content management and client management records within a single framework.

Additionally, all that data is then universally searchable through Handshake’s Universal Search.

Handshake has integration partnerships with products such as Westkm and ProView from Thomson Reuters, Lexis Search Advantage and Digital Library from LexisNexis, Ravel Law, Manzama, The Firm Directory, iManage and NetDocuments.

These integrations will continue and Handshake will continue to be vendor neutral, Aderant’s executive vice president Chris Cartrett told Legal IT Insider.

Handshake was founded in 2000. According to its website, its clients include more than half of the Am Law 100 and more than 45 percent of the Am Law 200, and it has more than 100,000 users across 10 countries.

“Aderant’s mission is to help firms run a better and more profitable business through technology,” said Aderant President Deane S. Price. “We have long been an industry leader in areas such as docketing, practice, and matter management solutions. Acquiring an industry leader in knowledge management expands our offerings and helps us better serve our clients, so they can better serve their clients.”

A survey released yesterday on the business of law and legal technology finds that competition for legal services remains high, demand remains relatively flat, and law firms are feeling pressure to lower prices and enhance operational efficiency. But what caught my eye in the survey was the question, “Which technologies provide law firms with the greatest overall effectiveness?”

The 2017 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey, conducted by Aderant, a provider of business management software for lawyers, surveyed 112 respondents in U.S. firms, most of whom are in financial, accounting or C-suite roles. Most of the respondents said that the performance of their firm this year is about the same as last year, and that the top challenges they face are:

  1. Pricing pressure.
  2. Improving operational efficiency.
  3. Winning new business.
  4. Growing more business from existing customers.
  5. Improving law firm agility and adaptability.

So if a firm is striving to control prices and improve operational efficiency, technology has to be a major part of the answer. But which technology?

As I already noted, that was the question put to the respondents. Their top 10:

  1. Document management, 66%.
  2. Financial/ERP, 52%.
  3. Business intelligence, 49%.
  4. Matter pricing and planning, 47%.
  5. Case management, 47%.
  6. Project management, 37%.
  7. CRM, 33%.
  8. Document assembly, 26%.
  9. E-discovery, 23%.
  10. Other, 4%.

Another question reframed the issue away from specific technologies and towards types of technologies. It asked, “Which technology concepts have the potential to drive the most efficiency?” Here were the answers:

  1. Automating manual tasks, 74%.
  2. Analytics and business intelligence, 60%.
  3. Integration of systems, 55%.
  4. Collaborative tools, 49%.
  5. Mobile access, 46%.
  6. Cloud-based solutions, 21%.
  7. Unsure, 10%.

The final technology question turned skyward and asked, “What is preventing the adoption of cloud technologies?” Not surprisingly, the leading answer was cybersecurity:

  1. Cybersecurity, 73%.
  2. Client concerns, 43%.
  3. Integration with other systems, 43%.
  4. Data ownership, 39%.
  5. Compliance, 38%.
  6. Cost, 35%.
  7. Change management, 33%.
  8. Physical location, 25%.
  9. Speed of service, 24%.
  10. Functionality, 23%.
  11. Other, 9%.

The full survey covers a broader range of topics, including alternative fees, billing and invoicing, competition and collaboration. You can download it for free — and you don’t even have to fill out a registration form.


This post was a BlawgWorld Pick of the Week.