Eclipse

A constant stream of technological innovations has now become the norm, with each new technology promising to be a game-changer for business in the future. Artificial intelligence (AI) immediately comes to mind as the latest ‘silver bullet’. In fact, the widespread view is that AI is going to take the legal sector by storm – and many law firms are impatient to get on the ‘bandwagon’.

Whilst it’s important that law firms explore these new technologies – that may or may not deliver on their perceived potential in their current form – with vigour to evolve and innovate; it’s also vital that they exploit existing proven technologies and approaches that are optimised and available ‘today’. Often these existing technologies and methods are forgotten in the excitement of chasing the ‘next big thing’ – which in time meets the same fate as the existing technology – ie remains under-utilised and hence its potential is never fully exploited for business gain.

Craig TaylorIf you ask an insurer what the three biggest risks are when providing cover to a law firm they will likely respond with ‘conveyancing, conveyancing and conveyancing’. An ever-increasing market pressure on price and a push towards high-volume, low-margin workloads in an extremely competitive market are doing nothing to reduce a law firm’s exposure to risk. Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) is probably a firm’s biggest cost after salaries, and reports indicate that sole practitioners are paying around 7 per cent of turnover.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) suggests that property represents a disproportionate level of negligence and that residential conveyancing accounts for 26 per cent of indemnity payouts, with one of the root causes being lack of adequate risk management.

The big question is what steps can you take to mitigate risk as a modern forward-thinking firm whilst increasing efficiencies and remaining competitive? Here is some advice for a law firm on how to reduce risk:

customer by charles roderick

CRM is high on the agenda again, prompted by increasing recognition of the value of informed relationships to help deliver more of what clients’ value. Making that happen requires accurate, up-to-date information about clients and other contacts to work with, that people can rely on with confidence.

Accuracy of personal data is probably top of that agenda for most right now though. GDPR has added the incentive now to explore better ways to manage personal data and to ensure its security more proactively and effectively. As ever, the GDPR’s mandatory compliance requirements from government is prompting action where there has been complacent inaction in the past – so take advantage of that.

As a result, there have recently been more useful, constructive and progressive discussions going on more widely within law firms about “data” than ever before, backed up with new plans to radically improve the quality of data they hold. This has become a catalyst to prompt new initiatives, supported by new technologies and strategies, many of which were already available before but just were not explored.

Better backlinks by Joe the Goat Farmer

With Douglas Millar

“Growing the link profile of a website is critical to gaining traction, attention, and traffic from the [search] engines. As an SEO, link building is among the top tasks required for search ranking and traffic success.” Moz

The importance of link building

Approaching its 20th birthday later this year, Google is still the dominant search engine in the UK. As such, it continues to hold significant sway as to which law firms gain more clients than others through the internet. For those firms looking to take their online marketing to the next level, focusing on link building strategy should be a priority.

Facebook likeFacebook is the grandaddy of social media. Founded in 2004, it is by no means the oldest service, but by a huge margin it is the largest, boasting in excess of two billion users worldwide. Although it is used primarily for personal networking purposes, documenting the lives and thoughts of its users to help them keep in touch with family and friends, it is also a highly effective business marketing platform.

There have been two distinct waves of foundings of alternative legal services providers (ALSPs): one from 1999 to 2007, including outsourcing companies such as Integreon, Axiom, Relativity, Consilio, Exigent, Pangea3 and Lawyers On Demand; and then another from 2010 to 2015, including the new wave of tech companies such as Neota Logic, Ravel Law, ROSS Intel and Kira Systems.

The gap between these two waves is likely due to the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2007–08 – as is, I would suggest, the second wave itself, which rapidly developed in response to the widespread demand for better value from corporate clients following the recession.

Yet today, according to the Thomson Reuters 2017 Alternative Legal Service Study, alternative legal services provision (“non-law-firms” basically) is an $8.4 billion industry worldwide – and that figure doesn’t include companies that make legal technology to carry out legal tasks, which is probably at least another couple billion and change. So we’re talking about a sector that has generated tens of billions of dollars over the last couple of decades, at least 1 per cent of global legal spend annually, from a standing start the year Titanic was released.

I think that’s pretty impressive. And like many people, I’ve not seen much reason why this sector couldn’t continue to grow just as fast in the years to come. Yet there’s at least some data out there to suggest that that growth has stalled recently. Why so?

Archway to Elm Court by Ruth Hartnup

Under the Bar Council scheme launched in 2004, members of the public and businesses may now instruct barristers directly and without the intervention of a solicitor. There has been a lot of talk and discussion on this new “freedom” since then, along the lines of the following questions:

  • Will it benefit members of the public?
  • How easy is it to find, assess and then engage a direct access barrister?
  • Will it be better for barristers willing to work directly with their clients? Will it be more profitable?
  • What effect will it have on solicitors? Will this reduce their market share?
  • What new methods are emerging for managing Direct access work?

This article is an attempt to find answers to these questions and generally to ask, “How is it going?”

Website address by Descrier

The answer to this question is, of course, “It depends.” It depends on the context.

First, let’s get some terminology out of the way. We are all familiar with a domain name, like example.com. The bit in front of a domain name, www or whatever, is a subdomain. The domain name without any prefix is sometimes referred to as a “bare” or “naked” domain.

What’s the www for?

Originally the www subdomain prefix was intended to refer to the website within a particular domain, as opposed to other subdomains like ftp (referring to the file transfer site) and so on. Web publishers will now often use a subdomain to host their blog (eg blog.example.com) or for particular large areas of their website, such as areas of legal practice (eg commercial.example.com).

Legal research is regarded as one of the necessary expenses of the legal profession. It’s a task that needs to be done to ensure that arguments are robust, and to build the most comprehensive case possible, but it is a time-consuming task. This is why legal research is often delegated to trainees and newly qualified solicitors, who are less expensive than those more established in the profession. However, while this does make legal research cheaper to conduct, it certainly does not make it cheap.
In order to get an idea of the true costs of legal research, we recently conducted a case study with a firm based in the west of England, with a focus on those who carry out this research on a day-to-day basis. We examined their newly qualified head count of over 50, and their average salary of £40,000. After determining that they spend 30% to 40% of their time conducting research, this resulted in an estimated salary bill of over £750,000 for legal research.

This article is about a new product created by my firm called Crosselerator™ which I immodestly believe is likely to be one of the most profitable pieces of software for users that they’ll ever own. It was producing enquiries for us almost as soon as we started using it, and as I write this (Jan 2018) we are still 2 months away from any serious marketing. If you want to skip the “why” and just look at the “how”, scroll down to “How it Works”; the detail is in the series of videos on the Crosselerator YouTube channel. It takes only 15 minutes to watch them all.

We describe Crosselerator as “the software that turns everyday email into income – every day”. It is the first tech product our firm has built where the target market is not specifically professional practices: it can be used by any “silo” business (most largeish businesses are).

Lollipop is coming by Guiseppe Milo

It’s already past the season for annual predictions which have become a staple of the legal tech media. Generally these predictions rely heavily on the direction taken by technologies in the last year, so I thought it would be more fruitful to look at what we collectively learned in 2017, without any added crystal ball-gazing. I asked several Newsletter contributors for their main takeaways from 2017. What particularly engaged them?

It has been apparent for some time that the biggest tech companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, have grown too large for our collective good. 2017 was the year we finally started trying to figure out how to do something about that. We look here at the huge “platforms” in particular. AI and court reform were other big issues of the day.

Our 2017 review continues with AI, social media, machine learning, algorithms and robots taking jobs.