A law firm is an information business. Put simply, lawyers provide information – in the form of advice – protecting their clients.

This advice is always communicated in writing. And traditionally, this writing was physical – on paper. This method of delivery obviously has a number of pitfalls. Paper documents have to be produced, sent, signed for and then filed away.

Email made short work of paper documents. Information, a lawyer’s ‘product’, can now be sent and received instantly, at next to no cost. However, this modern method has its own set of problems.

Paper documents are almost always filed away, often under lock and key. But because digital documents can so easily be accessed, reproduced and sent, they can be treated carelessly by the client. Digital documents are often used just once and are then discarded.

For law firms, this has meant two major issues:

1. Redundancy

Despite an obvious improvement over paper, digital documents are growing increasingly less efficient. When clients can’t find a document they ask for it to be resent (often multiple times) adding costs firms cannot charge for.

The pace of processes in the modern world and standards set by other industries are exacerbating this issue.

2. Security

While files sent over email are unencrypted and technically vulnerable to interception, this doesn’t affect most law firms. Unless you’re sending government documents or confidential trade secrets, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that someone is trying to intercept your emails.

However, emails do have a security flaw which is much simpler and much more common – human error. We’ve seen instances where somebody addresses the wrong person because of a small typo, where an email is forwarded with a sensitive document accidentally attached, or even where someone remained logged into their email on a public computer.

This is the paper paradox. While email is obviously much more efficient, it is lacking in crucial areas – areas that are compounding as society transfers more and more data.

Data culture

Cisco’s recent report on global data consumption revealed that total internet traffic grew 800% between 2007 and 2014. It’s now projected to triple between 2015 and 2019.

This growth is largely driven by improved access to technology (particularly mobile devices) and shifting expectations regarding online services.

Businesses such as Spotify, Netflix, YouTube and any social media platform provide on-demand access to their services. This ‘on-demand’ trend is also being replicated in the B2B space, with the increase of online banking and cloud-based business solutions such as Xero.

The legal profession is not immune to this movement. The International Legal Technology Association recently published their Future Horizons Report, in which they claim clients should be the primary focus of future IT investment.

“We must focus IT investments on securing and enhancing customer relationships. Strategic priorities must include quality of insight and advice, speed, responsiveness, and flexibility – enhancing the capability and efficiency of professional staff and the capacity for innovation.

Operationally, client demand is expected to focus on clarity of progress and budget reporting, providing real-time visibility of legal workflow, improving collaboration, integrating with client systems and building intelligence … to add insight and value … reduc

[ing] the level of human involvement required.”

This expectation of on-demand service, as well as improved access to technology, is exacerbating the inefficiencies outlined previously. Despite new technologies such as instant messaging and social media, the average number of business emails sent and received per user, per day is 122 (see Radicati’s report).

Clients increasingly want information at the touch of a button, and ease of communication means they will ask about the status of matters more often – they don’t want to wait for a lawyer to call back and they don’t want to worry about document management. This is where client-access tools have come of age.

This article is a segment from RedView’s whitepaper, ’The Transparent Law Firm Part 1: An Introduction to Client Access Technology’. To download the rest of the whitepaper and access the whole series, visit RedView.