Guy Kirkwood on why Legal firms should see value in RPA

What would you say to a law firm who is struggling to see the value in RPA and AI?

If we look at the legal market: the Jackson reforms, the SRA, the requirements driven by changes in the regulatory framework under which they operate; all of these things have necessitated a change in the way and the accountability that lawyers now face. What that is driving is a couple of things. One is in terms of compliance. The regulatory framework under which law firms operate, examples include: know your customer, anti-money laundering and GDPR, are becoming more and more onerous every day. 40% of our business comes from financial services organisations, banks and insurance companies, and so on. They’ve been here with this in exactly the same way that law firms have.

By comparison, a very small percentage of our business currently comes from law firms. Why would that be? I think it’s because of their inherently conservative as the majority are still run as partnerships. You can approach a Managing Partner of a law firm and suggest a good idea to them, but they still need to sell that internally. However, given the reforms and the Legal Services Act, I suspect we’re going to see an increase in the amount of M&A where the ‘White shoes’ are going to buy the ‘Magic Circle’ and vice versa. That creates a nightmare of differing systems, different working practices; what a friend of mine describes as ‘process sediment’ that’s been built up over time in the same way that sedimentary rock is laid down over eons.

RPA is a really good way of cleansing the process and data. A good example of that is the work T-Impact has done with Ashtons. But also, I’m expecting to see that M&A activity will lead to new and alternative revenue generation opportunities. 30 years ago, the audit-based accountants were in exactly the same position then as law firms are now, so what I am expecting to see is that law firms produce new services, they have to because the factory law firms have been set up so we now have Sainsburys’s law firm or Tesco’s law firm and these factory-type activities including wills, and several other activities that are just rote work and will not be done by the specialist law firms anymore. They, therefore, have to find new ways of generating revenue and I’m expecting law firms will move into business services and into consulting, in the same way that the audit companies did 20 to 30 years ago.