Law firms add new innovations, but lawyer use limited - survey

REUTERS/Toru Hanai
  • Members of Am Law 200 incorporating legal technology and innovation
  • Tech-enabled document drafting common, but smart contracts not

Sept 21 - Large law firms are building out innovative initiatives, from technology-powered document drafting to legal operations consulting, but adoption among lawyers is falling short, according to a new report.

The research by legal marketing and advisory firm Baretz+Brunelle comes as law firms, which have in the past been slow to innovate, move to distinguish themselves amid an increasingly crowded technology and legal services market.

The analysis was conducted by Baretz+Brunelle's NewLaw practice. Brad Blickstein and Beatrice Seravello co-head the team, which in October put out an analysis of "captive" alternative legal services providers (ALSP) within law firms.

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As with the captive ALSP report, "we were surprised at the number of different NewLaw initiatives that firms are attempting," Blickstein said in a statement on Tuesday.

Baretz+Brunelle surveyed 44 of the 223 law firms in the Am Law 200 and the Global 100. More than 80% of firms that responded introduced at least six of 10 different major innovation initiatives specified in the survey, though some were more widely implemented than others.

While 95% of respondent firms use tech-enabled document drafting and assembly, for instance, only around half have put in place smart contracts and blockchain initiatives, the report said.

Introduction of the other initiatives, including proprietary client-facing tech tools, alternative staffing agencies, and database and knowledge platforms, fell in the middle.

Just because the tools are there, though, doesn't mean law firm professionals are using them.

Using a "maturity model" to rate how often the tool or service is actually being implemented, the survey found that a majority of firm initiatives scored in the middle tier or below.

Across all the initiatives evaluated at all of the respondent firms, only 21% had been adopted pervasively, the highest maturity model rating.

(Update: This article has been corrected to reflect the accurate spelling of Beatrice Seravello's last name).

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com