5 Tech Trends for Legal Marketers to Watch | Legal Marketing Association (LMA)

By Lavinia Calvert

The pandemic has catapulted law firms into a digital future that has forced an accelerated investment in technology — particularly in the front office. This has brought good news for marketing and business development (BD) teams that are benefitting from increased access to the tools they need to operate effectively in a digital-first world.

The marketing technology landscape is awash with solutions making the task of building and maintaining the right tech stack challenging. Where to start? Customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise relationship management (ERM), social media, experience management, marketing automation, web content management, proposal generation? For some, it’s all the above!

For firms seeking to digitally transform their operations across the client lifecycle, the answer lies not in the procurement of multiple, disparate applications that don’t talk to each other or that create fragmented data sets. This is neither a sustainable nor scalable solution for the firm of the future.

1. Connected Applications

In part, the answer lies in our first trend to watch: the concept of connected applications. In lay terms, these are applications that interconnect and integrate with others, and that share a centralized source of data.

Supported by the right enterprise architecture and data model, a connected applications approach will deliver multiple benefits for your firm. This includes the ability to become more data-driven across the organization, to surface client insights faster and with more relevancy and, perhaps most importantly, to deliver a more seamless client experience across all touchpoints.

2. Single Source of Truth

Law firms generate extraordinarily high volumes of data across the client lifecycle, from intake to invoicing, and it’s often held in different databases, depending on where in the lifecycle it originates. This makes it difficult to obtain a holistic view of the firm’s business and relationships. And yet data about the firm’s clients, prospects, matters and experts is like engine oil for a high-performance marketing and BD machine: without high-fidelity fuel, it’s unlikely to run very efficiently, or to win any races.

Directly related to the concept of connected applications, our second trend to watch is the notion of establishing and operating from a single source of truth. One might define this as a philosophy, a practice and a desired state all rolled into one. In essence, it speaks to the concept of aggregating and structuring data from multiple systems into one place, such that users from across the organization have a single reference point regardless of how that data is used.

For law firms, this typically requires the integration of multiple core systems, such as the financial management system (FMS); HR system (HRS); time, intake and conflicts systems; and CRM, ERM and marketing automation solutions.

Integration, aggregation and a robust underlying data model are central to developing a single source of truth architecture — but it doesn’t stop there. Firms wishing to unlock the full value of a single source of truth also need to carefully consider workflows, data governance, and the user tools required to share, analyze and visualize data.

When brought together in a cohesive, scalable way, firms can turbo-charge all their operations, leading to richer insights, increased collaboration and greater efficiencies across the enterprise.

3. Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

Potentially new buzzwords for some, our third trend to watch is low-code/no-code platforms. These represent a new generation of software that make it relatively easy for users with limited or no development experience to design, build and deploy applications quickly. Examples include Microsoft Power Apps, ServiceNow and Intapp’s OnePlace platform.

For law firms, low-code/no-code platforms offer the potential to design software solutions to business needs faster, without the attendant cost of a development team. Sophisticated, real-time dashboards, for example, can easily be built using point-and-click interfaces that don’t require a deep understanding of the underlying operating system or data architecture.

While the adoption of low-code/no-code platforms may offer a heightened level of autonomy and democratization for non-IT professionals inside the firm, governance, security and training remain important considerations.

Successful firms will be those that strike the right balance between embracing the increased creativity and agility offered by these platforms, with the necessary organizational and cultural construct to support this shift.

4. AI-Assisted Workflows and Insights

An article about tech trends would not be complete without mention of artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted workflows and insights — our fourth trend to watch.

AI and its close cousin machine learning (ML) have the potential to transform the ways in which law firms handle almost every aspect of their digital operations. Answers to strategic, complex or esoteric questions are possible with lightning speed using AI. Firms are now able to automate, accelerate and assist all manner of legal processes that were hitherto reliant upon manual, human intervention.

For law firm marketing and BD teams, the potential for applied AI is a particularly exciting development. Already there are technologies available today, such as QorusDocs Proposal Management Software, that use AI and ML to automatically detect and offer up recommended responses or text for pitch documents and requests for proposal (RFPs). Ultimately, this helps bid teams fulfill these requirements up to five times faster. Imagine a future in which the perennial task of completing Chambers and other directory submissions is largely automated. It’s a whole lot closer than you may realize.

Many next-gen software providers have already embedded sophisticated AI and ML into their solutions today, and we can expect more and more innovation as these technologies evolve.

From the automation of tedious or repetitive tasks, to personalized insights and nudges at scale, AI offers firms a future in which the art of the possible seems unlimited.

5. Collaboration Tools and Workspaces

Even before the pandemic, law firms aspired to achieve greater collaboration across practice groups, offices and key client teams because they instinctively understood that this is what their clients increasingly required of them.

But this hasn’t been an easy thing to achieve, not least because most firms are made up of subject-matter specialists operating in narrowly defined niches. As a result, the collective expertise of the firm tends to be widely distributed across individuals, practice groups and geographies — which can be a structural impediment to managing complex issues that require a multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional approach.

Almost overnight, however, the pandemic catalyzed exponential, rapid growth in the adoption of applications such as Zoom, ON24, Microsoft Teams and Slack — delivering some of the very tools required to facilitate greater collaboration across people, places and teams on accelerated timelines.

Thus, our fifth trend to watch is collaboration tools and workspaces — a trend we predict will truly transform how law firms collaborate both internally and with their clients. This is a category of technology that combines engagement-centric document management, intelligent workspaces, virtual meeting places, and centralized knowledge capture and compliance. It is setting the stage for seismic shifts in the way law firms work.

For many, widespread adoption of such tools across partner, practice and client constituencies will likely represent a giant leap forward in the firm’s ability to achieve the financial, cultural and institutional gains long believed possible from true collaboration.

The Takeaway

Many law firms have been catapulted into a digital future that they may not have prioritized with quite the same urgency, had it not been for the pandemic forcing new ways of working. This shift has brought with it an increased focus on the technology and tools required to operate in a digital-first world.

While software alone is never the answer in and of itself, modern firms are beginning to pursue IT strategies and solutions that more seamlessly connect people, processes and data across complex operational ecosystems. This augurs well for law firm marketing and BD teams, which are increasingly responsible for orchestrating a streamlined experience across the full client lifecycle.

From connected applications to collaboration tools — and almost everything in between — law firms and their clients are poised to benefit greatly from advances in both the development and adoption of technology as a significant enabler of digital transformation.

As overwhelming as this may feel for some, there’s only one way to face the future: to embrace the opportunities and challenges present in the now.

 

Lavinia Calvert
Intapp

Lavinia Calvert leads the marketing and business development solutions business at Intapp, serving the front-office technology needs of professionals in the legal, accounting and consulting sectors. Calvert brings a deep and diverse base of international business experience. She has held a number of executive leadership roles in the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand, including CMO at OnePlace, CMO at IP law firm AJ Park and executive vice president strategy and marketing at Reuters Media.

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