Credit: Commons/Wikimedia
Credit: Commons/Wikimedia

Legal professionals will need to adjust to the evolving digital age if they want to establish and maintain a competitive advantage.   A number of technological trends are emerging in the legal industry.

Here are five trends in the legal industry:

1. Legal Technology

More firms are investing in legal technologies such as case management and e-billing software.  Attorneys are also purchasing document management solutions from vendors.  Software-as-a service, remote log-in, and other web-based technologies are allowing legal professionals to work from virtually anywhere.

2. Social Networking

Law firms are now using social networking sites in order to build relationships with prospects and clients.  Social media allows legal professionals to market themselves as well as reach out to other professionals in the field.  Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and help attorneys reach out to a broader audience.  John A. Elardo, a Phoenix-based lawyer, established a niche legal website for those seeking counsel in his state.  This approach establishes a firm’s presence similar to what the Yellow Pages directory did prior to widespread usage of the Internet.

According to the American Bar Association, the number of attorneys that belong to a social network increased from 15 percent to 78 percent between 2008 and 2012.  Those using a smart phone increased from 38 percent to 89 percent between 2007 and 2012.

3. Electronic Discovery

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now allow electronically stored information such as e-mails, instant messages, voicemails, e-calendars, graphics and data on handheld devices to be discoverable in litigation. This is known as electronic discovery.

Since electronic communication is now permissible in court, attorneys are placing a premium on data security, storage, and accuracy in order to protect the integrity of the judicial process.  This is the new reality of the digital age.

 4. Outsourcing

Like so many companies operating in the United States, law firms are also outsourcing certain processes to countries in Asia and South America.  Legal process outsourcing (LPO) transfers some of the work of attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals to external vendors located domestically and overseas.

Activities such as research, appointment setting, editing, transcription, and similar processes are passed off to contractors.  LPO enables U.S.-based lawyers to focus their efforts on professional development, marketing, and client work.  Legal departments and firms are looking to minimize costs, increase flexibility, and focus on higher value-add activities.

5. Globalization

The practice of law is also reflecting the globalized nature of the marketplace.  Cross border transactions, offshore accounts, foreign acquisitions or divestitures, and international transfers are forcing U.S.-based law firms to expand their practices and collaborate with counsel based overseas.  The global economy is redefining traditional boundaries on the geographic scope of law practice.