Law firms must accept a digital transformation to stay competitive, encourage growth, and manage risk in conveyancing. Find out how to get started now.
How to become a digital-first law firm
Prioritising digital transformation should be at the top of every law firm's to-do list. Understanding which technology solutions provide the best value, resolve pain points, and futureproof your firm are the foundations of a good business strategy. To help firms looking to embark on their own digital conveyancing journey, we spoke with three leading law firms at the Digital Conveyancing Summit to hear how they did it, what they learned along the way, and the outcomes of their actions. Watch the session here.
The legal industry has remained faithful to paper while other sectors adopted digital transformation. Committed to traditional methods of operation, it’s only in the last five years that we’ve seen an uptick in the number of firms adopting digital practises. Whether it’s caution, fear, or a lack of clarity on how and where to get started, the reality is that law firms must switch to being digitally focused.
Digital transformation has become a necessity for firms with the rise in remote working, changing client expectations, and ever-increasing compliance requirements to contend with. As the trend to move to digital continues to gain momentum, we’re seeing growth in firms actively seeking out technology solutions.
When it comes to conveyancing, firms are firmly assessing their workflow and looking at ways to optimise their processes. From tools to better manage their risk and adhere to compliance requirements to creating a better work/life balance for staff while building client relationships, conveyancers are on a quest to digitise their practise.
What is a digital-first law firm?
Digital-first law firms are at the cutting edge of technology. They’re employing the most up-to-date technology solutions that help to meet their business objectives whether it’s financial growth, increased productivity, or better client service. These are the firms that are more than just paperless. They’ve taken the next step to move from electronic to digital.
Instead of just relying on email and PDFs to complete their conveyancing tasks, digital-first law firms actively engage technology in their workflow, understanding it is crucial to success. Digitally focused law firms are working smarter, not harder. They’re agile and remain competitive, and that comes down to their digital maturity.
Why law firms need to be digital-first in 2022 and beyond
There are countless reasons to lead with digital in your law firm. Smaller firms can remain competitive through the agility to adopt new digital services quickly. Firms can attract and retain staff in a shrinking talent pool and scalability of your business is improved with the right technology in place.
Evidencing compliance is easier when you’re digital-first and you can have confidence you and your clients are protected with the best risk mitigation tools in place. Being paperless increases your green credentials and offering access to convenient apps and client portals are all helping law firms to meet client expectations.
In the digital age, it simply doesn’t make sense not to be digital-first anymore.
Six steps to becoming a digital-first law firm
After speaking to law firms, it’s clear it isn’t always the case that they don’t want to move to more digitised processes. Some simply don’t know how or where to get started when it comes to getting on board with the right technology in their conveyancing process. If you’re wondering how to become a digital-first law firm, these six steps should give you the start you need to move forward with your digital journey.
1. Do your research – Understand what solutions are available, how they work, where you need to make improvements, and which systems can solve your problems.
2. Build a strategy – Having a solid business plan can make all the difference. Assess what changes you’re going to make, and who your technology partners will be, and ensure you set out clear, measurable goals.
3. Get everyone on board - Some of the biggest challenges with digital transformation are internal. If you get buy-in early, it will make the rollout of new systems and tools easier along the way.
4. Commit to the plan – You've got your strategy set out, people are on board, now it’s time to execute the plan. There will be teething issues, and this is normal. Don’t give up at the first hurdle, work through it.
5. Evaluate your progress – Make sure you stay on track by regularly reviewing your progress. Are the changes working for you? Could they be improved further? Do you need to speed up or slow down? There’s no exact science because every law firm is different.
6. Celebrate the success – Take time to enjoy the wins, however big or small they might be. Learn from them and apply those learnings to your next strategy.
There is no single right or wrong way to become a digital-first law firm. As we heard from our panel at the Digital Conveyancing Summit, some started with digital from the outset like Priory Law who opened their practice during one of the busiest periods of conveyancing in the last decade.
Anne-Marie Smith, Head of Conveyancing at Priory Law Group says:
“Digital was really the only way that we could do it. Having the integration with the case management system, an app, and digital ID verification all working together to make sure that we can work in the office, at home and wherever we need to be, was key to making the business a success during a busy period.”
Other firms who have a long-standing history have taken a more gradual approach, as Nathan Kapoor, Managing Partner at Charles Coleman LLP tells us:
“For us, it was gradual because we were a very traditional firm. Staff were used to doing things in a set way. It was very much a case of switching gradually - let's perfect one thing and then we'll go to the next.”
As for Labrums Solicitors, they made the switch with a set date to moving to an entirely paperless model after their director had seen it work for an accounting firm previously, recalls Collette Crowley, Operations Manager.
“Our ultimate prompt to introduce Digital Systems was our director decided to go paperless in 2010. We've been paperless for a long time. He saw it work in an accountancy firm, and he was fed up logging files, of not having everything he needed in one place. From that day on, there was no more printing of emails and paper files. It was all on the case management system.”
What are the benefits of being a digital-first law firm?
Being digital-first is giving law firms a competitive advantage. Smaller firms can now compete with larger firms because access to technology is far greater than it was a decade ago. What’s more, their ability to be agile means they are typically adopting digital tools at a faster rate than larger firms on average. Here are some of the ways being digital-first benefits law firms.
Improve risk management
Conveyancing is one of the most high-risk areas of law and conveyancing fraud grows year-on-year. To combat the threats, law firms can benefit from secure technology that helps manage risk mitigation. Tools including digital ID verification, Open Banking, and checking the other side’s solicitor with technology such as Confirmly or Lawyer Checker are all ways firms can have peace of mind the tech is helping.
PI renewals are also made easier with reporting and digital dashboards making light work of preparing evidence of risk management.
Aid your compliance efforts
Whether it’s compliance with CQS, CLC, or SRA guidelines, technology can help make the process easier. Similarly to tech providing support with your risk management, going digital can also ensure you meet the requirements set out by industry bodies. The key factor being that digital audit trails are a simple and effective way to evidence you are indeed meeting the requirements.
Enhance the client experience
Client expectations continue to change as people adopt technology in every facet of their lives. Ensure their home moving experience lives up to their expectations by giving them a digital service. From onboarding to providing a property report, technology can help you make a great first impression and have a lasting impact that can gain you repeat business and referral work – ultimately growing your bottom line.
Pre-population, automation, and elimination of administrative tasks are all made possible with digital conveyancing. Digitisation improves productivity across the board, giving time back to your team to focus on client relationships and practising the profession they chose. It also means less repetitive, mundane tasks with the added bonus of minimised risk of human error.
Improve staff retention and talent acquisition
The conveyancing industry has been caught by a shortage of talent as a result of people leaving the profession following a particularly stressful and busy period. This means it is more important than ever to attract and retain good staff. Technology can help by increasing job satisfaction, allowing firms to improve work/life balance and flexibility, and can be a drawcard for hiring as we heard from Peter Carr, IT Head at Fisher Jones Greenwood in the final session at the Digital Conveyancing Summit.
Switching to being a digital-first law firm can only help you gain more value from your business operations. We hope you find these tips on getting started on your digital conveyancing journey useful.
If you’re not sure where to get started with digitising your conveyancing process, the Digital Conveyancing Maturity Index helps law firms understand what they’re doing well, where there are opportunities for improvement, and how their technology adoption compares to the wider industry. You can take a free 10-minute assessment to receive a personalised report, which can help you create a plan of action for digitising your conveyancing processes.