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Weekly legal tech news – May 4th, 2020

This week’s legal tech news tell us that the coronavirus crisis has impacted all the industries in different ways, ranging from massive job losses to an increased reliance on technology to work remotely. From social distancing to remote work and transforming events in online conferences, all these realities have changed the way we live and work. A few questions regarding work from home for law firms have already been answered, while others are still being raised by specialists all over the world. Are firms and lawyers ready to transition without disrupting the workflow while protecting client confidentiality? What toll would these near-house-arrest-like conditions have on the well-being of lawyers and staff? How will offline legal events adapt to the new situation? Find some answers in this week’s legal tech news.

With so many people working from home as part of a nationwide mass movement of social distancing, we are starting to see how the impact of tech will permanently change the professionals’ approach on certain types of work. At a time when we are facing new challenges and inevitable transitions, it can be useful to look to other times — and other industries — for lessons on tech innovation. Discover more on Above the Law.

In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and health authorities quickly recommended social distancing. This new society norm effectively mandated an unprecedented transition from office to remote work for lawyers and law firms. Working from home raised two urgent questions: Technologically, were firms and lawyers ready to transition without disrupting the workflow while protecting client confidentiality? And what toll would these near-house-arrest-like conditions have on the well-being of lawyers and staff? But these uncertainties aside, some lawyers saw the sudden reliance on technology and the sense of freedom remote work provided as a long-overdue innovation. Read more about “the great migration” on Canadian Lawyer Mag.

Tribunals from all over the world are deploying new tech to resolve disputes remotely. For example, The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal from Australia will receive more than $5 million in IT upgrades over the next 12 weeks to get planning and development dispute hearings back up and running. The tribunal, which has scheduled only injunctions and other urgent matters since late March, will use the funding for new software, including for project management, and hardware. Read more about this subject on IT News Australia.

Legal tech news note that legal conferences are looking for a formula to Fight ‘Zoom Fatigue’ – Law.com notes. Legal conferences are usually an opportunity for attorneys and legal tech providers to connect with one another face-to-face, but with many events going virtual in light of COVID-19, organizations may struggle to get attendees back in front of their computers. Legal conferences have already begun following the rest of the working life online. But as organizations like the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) begin moving events to the internet, such conferences may test the theory that if you build it, they will come. A big part of what normally drives people to conferences is the opportunity to network with other legal professionals. Attorneys build connections with clients, while legal tech providers and other vendors can seek out new potential customers and business opportunities. For legal tech providers, this could actually be a blessing in disguise. Jill Huse, president of the Legal Marketing Association, pointed out that some would-be customers shy away from tech vendor booths at conferences because they dislike getting the “hard sell, while a virtual conference format could force tech providers to find more creative ways to showcase their products. Find out more on this subject on Law.com.

Sorry, Legal Tech—Time Is Still Money, Law.com notes. The billable hour model favored by most law firms (and their in-house clients) prevents operational efficiency solutions from being widely adopted. The crisis has brought a new question about the way profitability works nowadays for lawyers – while there are plenty of solutions on the market geared toward automating tasks such as brief-writing, pulling cases or even fielding basic client questions, getting work done faster flies in the face of the traditional billable hour model that continues to sustain many a law firm. In fact, the real answer to why technology cannot kill the billable hour may be exceedingly simple: attorneys—and even some clients—do not want it to happen. Their reluctance is not entirely surprising. Many lawyers are accustomed to measuring their profitability and even performance based on the amount of time they are able to charge for a given matter, while some corporate clients have grown accustomed to the billable hour as a widely understood and accepted metric of service. However, the issue may run even deeper, illustrating a fundamental misunderstanding that continues to plague those working inside the legal industry—and could be preventing technology-enabled efficiency from taking hold inside firms. Read more in this Law.com article.

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