Legal Tech: It’s Time For Law to Embrace Technological Change

"Legal has long been impenetrable to the uninitiated - reread the first chapter of Dickens’ Bleak House to get a sense of how long people have been calling for change." Insight by Olga Beck-Friis, Co-Founder and COO of PocketLaw.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly learnt how much of our working lives can be conducted online. But for businesses, digitisation is no longer just a matter of convenience: it’s a question of survival.

A well-equipped B2B digital toolkit can drastically cut operating costs by taking specialist knowledge out of the hands of experts and industry gatekeepers who often charge exorbitant sums for even the most basic advice. With businesses under pressure like never before, a willingness to embrace the digital solutions now available to them can be the difference between boom and bust.

In order for a business to survive and thrive it must be as efficient with its resources (of which time is perhaps the most valuable) as possible. This is particularly true of the millions of businesses that have just entered the market – according to the Census Bureau, 4.4 million new businesses were started between March 2020 and March 2021 in the US alone. Being a newcomer is tough at the best of times, let alone when the economic environment is as competitive and uncertain as it is now. Luckily, there’s now an array of B2B tools available to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Digital solutions – be it for accountancy, HR or marketing – provide a way to replace outdated technology with more robust, dynamic digital fixes that automate low value or repetitive tasks that for too long have demanded manual input. Automating previously manual processes and admin gives business owners more space to focus on the things that really matter: building resilience, creating flexibility, being creative and innovative, and – arguably most importantly – driving company growth.

But digital innovations don’t just free up time and make things easier, they also help democratise information, which can reduce the need for, and cost of, expert advice. This can be clearly seen in the legal industry. Legal has long been impenetrable to the uninitiated – reread the first chapter of Dickens’ Bleak House to get a sense of how long people have been calling for change – but in an increasingly globalised world, the complexity of legal hurdles for small and medium-sized companies is increasing, leading to spiralling costs for business owners.

According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), small businesses in the UK lose up to £13.6 billion every year due to failures in taking care of their legal matters. These failures are predominantly honest mistakes and compliance failures made by small business owners who don’t even know that they’re doing wrong. Of course, we all have a responsibility to make sure that our business is legally compliant, but often the high fees lawyers can charge for even the most rudimentary advice are unaffordable for small businesses, and can prevent them from spending money on the legal advice that they really need.

The legal industry is known for being antiquated, slow and resistant to technological change at the best of times. Lawyers typically charge hourly rates, which provide little incentive to innovate in the name of efficiency. But times are changing, and digital legal solutions are democratising access to legal expertise, making it possible for small businesses to manage their own legal needs without having to turn to lawyers for day to day legal queries or tasks.

There are many examples of solutions solving legal challenges for small business owners. Apttus, for example, is a management software that has changed the way companies manage sales processes and contracts, removing the need for lawyers to be involved at every stage. Libryo allows users to filter out laws that don’t apply to their businesses and only zero in on regulations that do affect them. PocketLaw, meanwhile, helps businesses solve their day to day legal challenges without incurring legal fees by providing automated legal agreements and tailored guidance through a digital platform.

These are just a few examples of a rapidly growing legal tech sector that is making the law increasingly accessible to those without specialist knowledge, because in the digital era, businesses should be empowered to use legal as a growth accelerator, rather than an obstacle to success. And so, with the right B2B legal toolkit, any business owner should be able to take control of their day-to-day legal challenges themselves, minimising risk and saving significant time and money otherwise spent consulting lawyers.

Lawyers do important work and invest many years of time and hard work gaining the knowledge and expertise that they need to be able to do their jobs, so it’s absolutely right that they should be handsomely rewarded for it. But there’s hardly an industry on the planet that has been slower to embrace the efficiency benefits of technology. With so many cash-strapped small business owners unable to pay as much as they do for straightforward legal matters, it was only a question of time before digital innovators stepped in to offer an affordable alternative. Where once access to lawyers was expensive and laborious, legal tech solutions are democratising the process.

By Olga Beck-Friis, Co-Founder and COO of PocketLaw.

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