Guest post by Jessica Hirst

Is mobile the future of legal tech?

The world is amid change, in this increasingly interconnected world, how do law firms navigate the maze of technologies and utilise these tools to evolve with society’s demands. Law firms are becoming increasingly reliant on automating legal processes and implementing the right tools which are easy to integrate, scale and adapt to future needs. In this short article we will discuss how mobile could influence the legal industry. 

In 2022, according to Statista, there are 6.64 billion smartphone users in the world today, meaning that 83.72% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. This increase of 49.89% since 2017 demonstrates a rapid global growth in smartphone owners, and the World Advertising Research Centre believes that 72% of all internet users will solely use smartphones to access the internet by 2025.

Mobile Usage Stats

Industries such as banking have already moved into the app space, evolving from sole reliance on branches to telephone banking to now being app focused. Comparing this to the legal industry, where app technology is still not adopted by everyone, suggests that legal should be doing more with apps. The big trends suggest that this market will continue to grow; artificial intelligence and machine learning, voice search, virtual reality and folding displays are all more suited to app-based solutions. The growing implementation of 5G engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks, are all factors leading to mobile being preferred to desktop. 

Demand for legal apps? 

Mills & Reeve, the winner of KM Innovation award in 2020, created an app in 2019 called ‘What the Tech’. The app was created for staff to improve self-awareness of legal technology solutions already available to them and their clients, as the service desk was becoming inundated with questions regarding technology solutions already available. The innovation and legal technology app can be used on both desktop and mobile, but the firm found the most favourable option for staff is mobile. The app includes advanced decision tree functionality aiding technology discovery, secure access for approved app users, news feed highlighting the latest tech news, and many more features. The app was built in two weeks and rolled out straight away. Being able to respond so quickly to the demand has allowed the firm to be more proactive rather than reactive. Mills & Reeve have seen a recent increase in demand for apps over the last few years, rolling out four apps last year compared to only two in the previous 18 months. 

Companies such as Amazon Honeycode and Microsoft Powerapps have realised the lucrative potential in creating their own low code/no code mobile app platforms, allowing the consumer to build a mobile and web app for teams quickly without any programming required. We have seen a sharp rise in internal apps within law firms after the pandemic to monitor returning to offices, allowing employees to state their working locations on internal apps viewable by their colleagues, or booking car parking spaces ahead of going into the office. 

What areas could be lower adaptors to legal apps?

The mobile penetration rate in the UK is 78%; with usage and dependency so high what is the reasoning for why the legal industry is still behind other industries in their mobile use, and remain predominantly desktop based? Will mobile continue to grow in the next few years within an industry known for being slow in terms of being customer centric and often outdated in terms of technology. As new artificial intelligence tools and machine learning enable businesses to offer an outstanding service, this has resulted in customers’ expectations having soared upwards. It is now imperative that businesses across all sectors must be tailored to the consumer and have a customer centric approach. Research carried out by Deloitte showed that 60% of customer-centric companies are more profitable than those not focused on their customers. 

There can be pitfalls with a mobile first approach in the legal industry, with a key setback being screen size. Large scale documents are not as easy to view on mobile screens this could be a key area of focus for legal design in the future, ensuring that such sized documents are more accessible and use friendly on smaller screen devices. Desktops are currently more powerful than a mobile device due to their size, components, and less restrictive power requirements, however mobiles are getting more powerful by the year. The consumer demand is growing for everything to be mobile first, and the continuous development of mobile technology means it is becoming increasingly likely that they will soon be just as powerful, or even surpass, desktop capability. 

The lack of understanding around legal automation within the legal industry poses a problem, as lawyers sometimes fail to grasp the full capabilities of automation tools and how they can improve tedious legal processes. It is a common misconception upon lawyers that artificial intelligence cannot support in their line of work, however it can often offer a wide capacity of support, including simplifying more mundane and time-consuming work such as admin-based tasks, to allow more time to focus on more complex work. Another potential issue is that from a client point of view lawyers are faced with ensuring that their cloud-based technology do not violate their client’s privacy rights, and that their clients are happy with their data being used. 

The drive needs to come from the legal professionals themselves, they need to choose the right tools that will integrate, scale, secure and adapt to a customer centric approach. Technology alone is not the answer, there needs to be an understanding of the key legal processes which would benefit from mobile technology to ensure the technology would add value.

Will there be a world that will be app first, desktop second?

The pandemic amplified and accelerated demand for automating legal processes with the need and desire for these types of technologies growing. There is an increasing reliance on mobile technology, with a growing volume of people having a dependence on being able to access their work life on their mobile phones as they adapt to working in a more agile and hybrid way. The younger generations continue to be extremely active mobile users, less so reliant on desktop devices, and continue to expect more from their mobile phones as technology continues to evolve at an alarming rate.

Mobile first companies in the legal industry are seeing rising success, with companies such as Lawyer 365, an app-based platform, providing online promotion and free initial legal advice by video via an artificial intelligence legal assistant. Its initial assessment software uses a form of artificial intelligence designed to mirror a lawyer’s brain to provide legal advice for millions of users. Further to this, Rocket Lawyer, one of the most reputable online legal services on the market, is developing a mobile first technology approach. The CEO’s vision is that mobile will become increasingly central to consumer and legal needs, from document creation and legal advice to e-signatures and access to documents, all being done via a mobile

The low code/no code app platforms now available provide flexible technology allowing law firms to create easily accessible, fast to market solutions, whether practice or client driven. This technology is now forcing law firms to be more proactive and adapt their services to meet the evolving demands of the market. Mobile is likely to be an important differentiator for law firms over the next few years, however simply launching apps in isolation will not ensure success. There needs to be a clear understanding of process blockers and known issues within the industry with apps tailored to resolve them. 

About Jessica
I’m a legal counsel working in the Telecoms industry and a qualified solicitor in England and Wales. I have a key interest in legal tech and how it is changing the legal sector, feel free to reach out to discuss anything legal tech-related. 

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