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19th February 2021

The Time for Technology Investment is Now: Legal IT Landscapes 2021

2020 and the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic has proven that investment in technology is a fundamental element in ensuring the survival and success of law firms. A survey carried out by HSBC in 2018, found that 87% of surveyed law firms considered investment in technology a key business enabler, believing that tech would help boost revenue by enabling a more advanced and high-quality level of customer service.

The competitive landscape has considerably shifted, and law firms must rethink the way that they deliver their services to achieve a sustainable and profitable business over the next few unpredictable years ahead. Technology investments will drive competitiveness. Those that invest in technology to cut costs, mitigate risk, and increase efficiency have a better chance at survival and success.

Briefing’s Legal IT Landscapes surveyed several large UK firms and put to them the question of, “In which of these areas is your firm prioritising its investment in technology (both systems and people)?”. This blog post explores the top five most popular answers, and why these chosen pieces of technology are paramount for law firms’ success.


  1. Remote working solutions
  2. Business intelligence (BI)
  3. Process automation
  4. Cybersecurity
  5. Client collaboration technology

Remote Working Solutions

As might be expected, remote working solutions came out on top, with 77% of respondents choosing this as the highest-priority project. Legal IT Landscapes 2021 found that Microsoft Teams is the collaboration tool that the majority of firms are adopting, and after the news of the pandemic, with over 1.5 million people in the UK regularly working from home, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, revealed that Teams usage had soared to over 75 million daily users worldwide.

However, it must now be considered how the COVID-19 vaccine will impact remote working.  According to Andrew Powell, CIO at Macfarlanes, “Technology focus is likely to be around supporting hybrid teams, with potentially a more even split longer term of office and remote working.” It seems that the future of working will be a hybrid one.

Business Intelligence (BI)

In the current climate, law firms will be looking the most effective way of receiving information that would inform business decisions. Business Intelligence (BI) is a tool that could be invaluable to a firm in this sense, which is why it is no surprise that this piece of technology made second place. BI can assist law firms in navigating a constantly changing landscape and manage their operational decision-making and strategic planning to ensure their longevity and success.

Process Automation

2020 has brought about specific demands; law firm employees must have the ability to work productively and efficiently at home.  Law firms must look for new ways to streamline their workflow, and the adoption of automation software would help law firms to relieve the pressure to be more responsive, efficient, and compliant, whilst delivering high-quality services to their clients – process automation comes in as the third project on firms’ minds.

According to the 2019 Legal Trends Report, fee earners spend less than three hours a day on billable tasks due to their time being taken up by completely administrative tasks. Client intake can take up a large part of a lawyer’s time, so by adopting client intake tools that automate parts of the intake process, allowing law firms to bring on clients in a less amount of time while lawyers can concentrate on value-add, billable tasks such as client and case development.


Fourth in on the list is cybersecurity, and when asked to rate, on a scale where one is ‘negligible’ and 10 ‘extremely high’, the level of cyber threat against their firm, the average rating was 7. According to Reuters, the number of cyber security threats has more than doubled since the news of the COVID-19 outbreak, and with the entire country adopting a temporary remote working model, cyber security risks have been further exacerbated as staff utilise a mixture of their own personal devices and business-issued devices.

Having in place tools that monitor, investigate and mitigate potential cyber threats is vital for law firms who hold large amounts of sensitive and confidential. Phishing, data breaches, ransomware and supply chain compromise are just a few of the significant cyber threats every firm faces, and due to the large amounts of sensitive and confidential data firms hold, robust cyber security is a must.

“A breach could be catastrophic for the business, reputationally as well as operationally. Reputation is more important on the basis that our clients trust us to provide them with a service and hold their information securely. If we lose that trust, then that’s a significant issue so that’s why cybersecurity is a priority.” – Nathan Hayes, IT Director at Osborne Clarke.

Client Collaboration Technology

While client collaboration technology for matters landed in fifth place, collaboration in a broader sense came out on top of the Briefing efficiency/competitiveness axis, showing that this is still very much a priority for law firms.

Law firms understand that the needs and demands of their clients have changed now that face-to-face meetings are few and far between due to the government-enforced lockdown. Client portals, document sharing, audio-visual technology and collaboration tools are some of the solutions that law firms are investing in to allow for more collaborative and efficient meetings with their clients.

It is clear, now more than ever, that the future of the law firm relies heavily on investing in and adopting new technologies that streamline processes, support more immersive collaboration and protect clients and their confidential data. The question that Legal IT Landscapes poses is: has it taken a global pandemic to highlight the importance of technology investment within the legal sector?

Briefing Frontiers: Legal IT landscapes 2021 explores how COVID-19 has affected the legal sector’s outlook on technology adoption. Read Briefing’s full report on their website, here.

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