Digital Transformation

Moving past the present

Digital Transformation

♫ Oh, then won’t you embrace me?... 
— Music and lyrics by Greg Laswell

What does it mean for law to move into digital transformation? Let’s take a step back and get a bit of perspective.

At the beginning of time, law firms and courts kept all records on paper. The first step along this transformative path was to convert to electronic records. “Paving the cowpaths” meant that all records were now kept in electronic folder systems that were the electronic version of the file folder — or in other words, “digitalized.” All files were still kept the same and searched by brute force. Similar to paper, all storage and organizational systems were analogous, albeit on a digital platform. This is only slightly transformative since the same ways of thinking were used to handle digital documents as they did with paper.

To take the next step toward transformation, new ways of doing things must be chosen. Moving to a digital filing system allows for digital searches across the whole database; and it allows for new ways of working as all files can be shared and accessed from home or a remote office.  Practice management software can integrate with the filing and accounting systems, resulting in lawyers working from a digital desktop. In the court situation, case management software can now be used that integrates scheduling with court files, HR systems and more. It is the bringing together of multiple systems in one package that starts to open up new ways of thinking and with it, new processes.

Salesforce.com’s publication, “State of the Connected Customer,” states that “technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.” For example, portals: secure websites, allow clients to gain access to all communications and documents on their file 24/7 and avoid insecure ways of communicating such as email. Furthermore, they can respond and leave instructions without going through voicemail or email jail.

The next step will be in applying Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Digital Analytics (“DA”) to law. AI already has revolutionized legal research, legal contract review, as well as litigation case analysis. DA has the promise of providing insights into new services that can be offered to clients by analyzing firm wide data based on client profiles.

Lastly, we have the transformation of the law via technology. Smart contracts on the Blockchain are an entirely different beast from a traditional contract. “A smart contract is a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code. The code and the agreements contained therein exist across a distributed, decentralized Blockchain network. The code controls the execution, and transactions are trackable and irreversible.

Smart contracts permit trusted transactions and agreements to be carried out among disparate, anonymous parties without the need for a central authority, legal system, or external enforcement mechanism.” (per Investopedia)

Disputes over smart contracts can take place via Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) built into the Blockchain using virtual juries. The next step with ODR is to allow the software to help resolve disputes as the deciding party.

The Blockchain can be used to replace traditional ways of doing things. 20 Real-Life Uses for the Blockchain lists such uses as enforcing copyright; replacing land, automobile and other title transfer systems, medical record keeping, wills, equity trading, tracking prescriptions and many others.  With increased use of the Blockchain will come increased use of ODR and less reliance on traditional court systems. This is the transformative power of technology.

What is the future use of technology in law? Pega.com states: “Leaders are less concerned about using technology to increase profits, with 46% citing cost savings and 43% citing revenue generation as changes they are trying to achieve. Instead, 65% of leaders see it as an avenue to achieving higher quality work. Fifty percent of the leaders surveyed also believe technology will create more reliable work.”

In order for law firms and justice systems to move forward, I believe it will be essential for organizations to view technology as a way to change not just the way things are done but HOW you can do things differently and WHY. Digital transformation is about new ways of thinking, changing things and moving to the future. I can just hear technology saying to lawyers and judges: “Oh won’t you embrace me?”