The Future Of Law Firms : Digitize or Die

Carl Niklaus Wallace
7 min readNov 6, 2021


The pace of change is accelerating and legal services delivery is undergoing a radical remodeling.

Known to be slow and hesitant adopters of change, the legal industry faces the most significant change of our time — DIGITIZATION.

It is no longer a decision between YES or NO to transformation, it is a WHEN and HOW conversation.

This 5-minute read unpacks why the legal industry is decades behind in adopting new models, methods, technologies, and thinking. Understanding why this happened is the starting point for attorneys, legal teams, and firms that want to thrive in a radically changing legal environment.

Ironically, law firms stand the most to gain from digitising and automating the current manual processes, procedures, and workflows. Why then the procrastination?


+ Digitisation Explained

+ The Legal Industry | Then & Now

+ Why Law Firms Fail To Change

+ Re-engineering Legal Services Delivery

+ Conclusion

Digitization goes far beyond transitioning from paper to digital. It is an opportunity to reimagine how goods and services are produced and delivered utilizing the possibilities of technology.

It changes WHAT we do
by changing HOW we do it.

Digitisation Explained …

Digitization is a process of enhancement & automation that touches

business models
operational tasks
project management
document management
content creation
service delivery
client perception & satisfaction
the workforce
… almost the entire organization.

These newly designed processes and models significantly enhance efficiency and productivity — enabling businesses to serve their clients better and grow.

The Legal Industry

Digitizing the Legal Industry will reinvent the way things are done, shifting from [ manual, slow, and paper-driven ] to [ automated, instant, and digital ].

A great example of where all stakeholders benefit is Digitally Streamed Court Hearings with remote participation:

+ Enormous enhancement in court efficiencies
+ No loss of court documents [ paperless system ]
+ Much fewer time constraints
+ Removes location-based constraints
+ Security and privacy of identities
+ Protection & comfort of children witnesses
+ No transportation issues & costs
+ Safety, Security & Logistics involving prisoner
+ Digital Court Documents on Tablets provides instant access to specific material
+ Major increase in the court’s capacity for hearings

Case settlements in months instead of years will have a tremendous impact on the economy and society in general.

Then & Now

A shift from [ What We Practice ] to [ How We Practice ]

Serving clients primarily depended on [ WHAT ] they practice. We are fast approaching the point where serving clients will heavily depend on [ HOW ] attorneys’ practice.

The manual, paper-driven, and over-complicated legal operational processes were designed in a time when access to legal sources was exclusive and access to critical information and documents was limited.


+ legal expertise and technology is available to anyone
+ information is freely available
+ access to critical material can be granted or revoked for anyone, anywhere on the planet in seconds.

A shift from [ Time & Manual Labour ] to [ Efficient & Automated Labour ]

Why is it that Law firms in general lag in adopting and deploying effective technologies?

They don’t deploy technology to reduce cost, streamline efficiency, automate processes, secure content in the cloud. This would improve alignment/collaboration with clients whose expectations will demand the best client experience at every touchpoint.

It most likely has to do with

+ Fear of losing billable hours
+ Limited
+ Lack of Vision
+ The Law
+ The Billing Method

+ Fear of losing billable hours

There is a perception amongst legal practitioners that fast-tracking service delivery through task-and-process automation poses the risk of losing billable hours. Automation done properly frees up many man-hours, increasing their capacity to take on more work.

+ Limited Talent

Generally, the legal workforce has only one field of expertise — licensed legal practitioners and their supporting staff. They don’t employ technical or any other specialised expertise. The law itself looks at the past and legal professionals are trained to look backward, not forward. Keeping up with change simply requires a relationship with a trusted advisor that specialises in Digitisation.

+ Lack of Vision

The legal industry lacks visionaries that are continuously looking for new and more efficient ways to do things.

Other industries employ a wider variety of talent and are more likely to have internal visionaries that drive innovation and change.

+ The Law

The law is constant and the industry does not like change.

+ The Billing Method

The strictly enforced billing method prevents firms from innovating, exploring, and adopting new ways/solutions. The intensive labor/cost approach to tasks, emails, phone calls, and meetings served their economic model well when things were simpler and change was much less critical.

With billable time filling the schedule, no non-billable time is available for thinking, planning, or meeting with advisors that are driving change.

Would attorneys be interested if they were offered a large bag filled with billable hours in exchange for a few hours in the think tank and a couple of non-billable consultations with the manufacturer of these billable hours?

YES, who wouldn’t be?

Re-engineering Legal Services Delivery

There are forward-thinking legal teams and service providers that have started re-engineering their legal services delivery methods with a focus on legal expertise, technology, and process.

Their results:

+ compressed delivery time and cost,
+ budget predictability,
+ efficiency,
+ and mitigated risk.

A holistic approach to Digitising a law firm includes

+ technology
+ process and project management
+ new models
+ new providers
+ new billing paradigms
+ knowledge management
+ inter-disciplinary approaches to business challenges that involve legal issues
+ new skills required of legal providers
+ and most importantly an openness to change.

A Decline in Business and Market Share

Several legal surveys indicate the need for law firm services has flattened and continues declining while overall legal demand has increased steadily.

This gap will keep growing as a result of

+ not embracing [ much less implementing ] digitisation

+ not differentiating themselves with reimagined effective service delivery, fit for this era

+ clinging on to old styles, models, and thinking

+ not caring about the quality of their service delivery and meeting client expectations

Legal teams remain ignorant towards clients complaining or questioning costs, inefficiency, poor customer experience, and a failure to understand their business or personal needs.

Clients of today are knowledgeable and have a whole new level of expectations.

Digitization is not just an internal focus. Its external focus ensures clients share in the benefits.

The [ internal ] characteristics of a fully digitized legal services provider is

+ Customer-Centric
+ Tech & Process Enabled
+ Digitally Secured
+ Mostly Paperless
+ Accessible To Clients In Real-Time
+ Agile
+ Diverse
+ Intelligent
+ Multi-Disciplinary,
+ Enterprise-Focused
+ Globally Branded
+ Scalable

[ external ] digitized legal service delivery is

+ driven by client demands and expectations
+ more efficient,
+ cost-effective
+ accessible from anywhere
+ process driven
+ communicates transparently
+ & metric-based


I would like to leave a final thought for every legal practitioner on the current reality their law firms are already facing.

The law is an enormous industry with incredible significance. It is one of the oldest industries with the sole purpose of preventing the world from collapsing into total chaos by maintaining order.

Protecting the world’s legal systems and ensuring it remains capable to serve their purpose ought to be a priority for everyone in the ecosystem.

Yet, law firms are doing little to nothing to re-engineer their delivery methods to keep up with the world.

They hardly have the willingness to listen, make time available, or even respond to the consulting and advisory firms that have adopted this responsibility.

To move forward, attorneys need to take a hard look at the reasons behind their non-participation:

+ Their economic model
+ Their structures and processes
+ and their short-sightedness that is driven by greed.

Clients are frustrated, expectations are not being satisfied and they are more than willing to seek other options that can.

Getting this right will separate the law firms of the future from the law firms that used to practice.

Let’s have a chat about this, I am open to a free video consultation with you.

Carl Wallace | CEO



Carl Niklaus Wallace

A forward thinker that solves today's problems with solutions of tomorrow. [ founder of dewly ] -