Technological advancements are reshaping industries and creating new ways of working, from the rise of the cloud to 5G and the mass adoption of large-language models and AI. But law firms, typically known to be slow to change and risk averse, are grappling with their own challenges alongside these advancements—paper-based documentation and fax machines are no longer tenable.
In a process-driven profession, lawyers can find themselves bogged down with time-consuming procedures, repetitive processes and document-heavy caseloads. Recent data show that 75% of legal professionals spend more than 20 hours each week on non-client-facing billable work other than meeting or representing clients in court. Law firms must confront these obstacles head on to thrive in this dynamic environment and free up time to create more meaningful client relationships.
Streamlining client onboarding, managing vast documents across cases and minimizing non-billable tasks are essential to bolstering operational efficiency and maximizing profitability. Embracing these strategies enables firms to navigate the complexities of modern legal practice and ensures an unparalleled client experience, which can put them at the forefront of the legal landscape.
Five specific obstacles have emerged that law firms must address. From managing disjointed tech stacks to securing critical business and client information, these challenges define the present landscape and lead to transformative solutions that redefine the legal practice’s future.
Challenge #1: Onboarding and Administration
Client onboarding and administrative tasks are intricate and time-consuming. With a keen attention to detail, lawyers must assess the risk of taking on a new client or case and consider issues like conflict of interest. Regulatory considerations and extensive paperwork—from engagement letters and contracts, legal forms, and financial records—must be accurate and complete during onboarding. This is an important time to get everything in order, but it often detracts from building meaningful client relationships, creating a key challenge lawyers face. Finding ways to streamline the process at the start of a new engagement is critical.
Law firms must embrace automation for common business workflows, repetitive tasks, and client outreach processes. This workflow improvement enables lawyers to easily track and manage the progress of accelerated agreements by speeding through form fills, signature requests, and more. A streamlined onboarding process will make lawyers’ lives easier and make clients feel like the No. 1 priority.
Challenge #2: Document Categorization
Keeping documents organized is difficult, but document management is pivotal in the legal profession. The volume of documents lawyers handle is vast—contracts, court filings, financial information and more—and the confidential nature of this information requires special handling for access and security. It’s also easy to misfile or misplace items, which can cost precious time as lawyers try to find specific information in a sea of documents.
Law firms must introduce document categorization to help work flow more seamlessly and help lawyers stay organized. For the legal profession, this can mean finding a tool tailored for the industry. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work effectively with the nuances and amount of information lawyers handle for any client or case. This is especially true when it comes to the compliance and regulation standards firms must adhere to and the vast amount of confidential information that must be properly categorized, handled and stored.
Challenge #3: Disjointed Technology Stacks
Technology has come a long way in the legal profession with the introduction of cloud and platform-management offerings. Despite the promise technology holds, it can be a stressor for lawyers who need to learn the ins and outs of using new tools—it’s easy to get fatigued with multiple products and platforms at lawyers’ fingertips. The number of technologies a firm uses can impede collaboration and create fragmented workflows.
But lawyers shouldn’t just introduce tech for the sake of it. Law firms must evaluate the entire tech ecosystem to identify efficiencies where technology can improve, not impede, work and understand if there are tools they can eliminate or add to their tech stack. The goal should be to use technology to support work and make practicing law more efficient and effective—and it must be intuitive and not interrupt workflows. Dedicating time to workforce training is also essential to avoid skill gaps and low adoption.
Challenge #4: Secure Workflows
Protecting critical business and client personal identifiable information (PII) is one of the most important things lawyers must do to establish trust and credibility. With the ubiquity of technology, lawyers must recognize workflow security. They must keep files, comments, and attachments safe from cyberattacks and mitigate risk, which can keep them up at night if they don’t have the right tools.
Highly sensitive and confidential information can be easily mishandled due to human error or when people don’t follow protocols, so finding a technology partner to help is important. When evaluating vendors that promise secure workflows, look for key features like end-to-end encryption, secure data access, and control capabilities via granular sharing permissions, authentication requirements, and regulatory compliance support.
Challenge #5: Over Reliance on Email
Another challenge lawyers commonly face is an overreliance on email communication, which erodes billable hours and collaborative efforts. An overreliance on email creates a ripple effect of bad work habits, creating issues with version control, document management, and record keeping. Not to mention, inboxes quickly clutter with every email sent and received, and communication delays become inevitable.
It’s a hard habit to break, but collaborative workspaces and better document and project management platforms are starting to change the course for the better. Dedicated workspaces for each client or case are one solution to navigate document-heavy workflows, helping clients locate conversations, files, and tasks in real-time and helping lawyers avoid relying on email—in fact, the centralized space eliminates the need for sending documents and files over email all together.
Overcoming Challenges for Better Outcomes
Despite all the challenges facing today’s legal field, there are ample opportunities for enhancing operational efficiency through technology integration. When technology solutions are implemented effectively, firms can harness the benefits to improve outcomes for their teams and clients.
To start, legal professionals should identify and automate repetitive administrative tasks such as client onboarding, project management, and document workflows. Automation in these areas can enhance collaboration, improve the client experience, streamline information sharing, and boost overall productivity.
Embracing technology to establish a modern legal workspace empowers legal professionals to adapt to resource limitations, tackle the ever-evolving challenges of the industry, and leverage emerging technologies. Ultimately, this strategy enhances experiences for legal practitioners and clients, propelling the industry forward in the modern legal paradigm.
About the Author
Mike Fouts is Chief Business Officer at ShareFile, where he oversees the organization’s go-to-market functions including marketing, sales, and channels. Mike has nearly 30 years of direct and indirect sales management experience in the technology sector, having held various leadership roles regionally, nationally, and globally within the Citrix Sales and Services organization. Prior to Citrix, he held management and leadership positions with a Citrix channel partner, a Fortune 500 financial services company, and the United States Golf Association. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.
ShareFile, a business unit of Cloud Software Group, helps you deliver a modern client experience with collaboration and workflow technology that is secure, easy to use, and made to fit your organization. Designed with highly regulated industries in mind, ShareFile offers a secure, digital solution to simplify workflows and improve collaboration. ShareFile works with your existing technologies, and gives you added visibility, speed, and efficiency without having to sacrifice security.