As the legal industry ramps up its spending on the necessary technology to compete in today’s marketplace, law firms’ IT departments are finding their budgets stretched thinner as they’re expected to handle multiple new systems and applications.
A newly released white paper, entitled Bridging Law and Technology, asks the question, as law firms invest more in IT, how is new technology changing the role of professional support lawyers (PSLs)?
Author Joanna Goodman, in association with Thomson Reuters, discuss how law firms’ knowledge management (KM) strategies are being impacted by new technologies, process automation and the evolving presence of artificial intelligence (AI). Far from making the PSLs obsolete, all these factors are making PSLs — who had traditionally been responsible for much of the legal research workload — quite indispensable and valuable.
Now, the author argues, these PSLs can “focus sharply on technology as a driver of competitive advantage [and] are moving up the law firm value chain, managing the interfaces between technology, processes and people and acting as a bridge between lawyers and the technology function that supports the business.”
“PSLs work closely with partners and practice groups and know their teams and their clients well,” she continues. “They can look at the precedents and technologies and decide on the best combination for particular matters. They add value by applying expertise rather than simply bringing various documents and materials to the attention of their practice and sector groups.”
Document automation has become part of the new normal in legal. At the higher end of the market, it boosts margins and enables firms to price more competitively, particularly as automated processes are scalable; so once they are set up, they allow firms to handle large volumes of work without requiring additional staffing.
David Halliwell, Pinsent Masons’ director of knowledge and innovation delivery, is also happy to rely on external services for legal updates and precedents. And he emphasises that KM is more than precedents and automation.
“Our lawyers understand that KM doesn’t just mean creating a few precedents and automating a first draft. It means building all that into a technology-driven process that embeds the firm’s knowledge. That is where the best legal artificial intelligence tools are heading and it is where our PSLs are focusing their efforts.”