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Technology: friend or foe of the conveyancing lawyer?

  • January 22, 2018

As any conveyancing professional knows, there can be an inordinate amount of time spent pouring over papers and inputting data manually, not to mention the frustration of being part of a sequence of communication very much like the property chain itself, where it only takes one lawyer to go on holiday and all associated proceedings grind to a halt for a fortnight. The real risk of a process where things are dragged out is of course, that the chain may collapse and the sale of the property may not go through at all. And, in an age where so much information is readily available at the touch of a button, it is understandable if clients get a little impatient.

Most of us would agree that more efficient methods are needed and as a result, in recent years there has been a surge in the number of companies providing technology specifically tailored to the needs of conveyancers, designed to simplify and speed up the most time consuming and intricate processes. For example, firms can easily send documents via secure portal and receive electronic signatures, rather than relying on the return postal system and complex tech that now exists which enables faster and increasingly sophisticated property searches.

So, are firms making use of the new tools at their disposal? Not according to a recent survey by PwC, which found that 55 of the UK’s top 100 law firms were failing to keep pace with cutting edge technology, with just 11% utilising big data or predictive analytics. However, awareness is certainly increasing: Reuters’ analysis revealed a 484% rise in new legal services patents globally, indicating that while there is a way to go, law firms all over the world are beginning to invest in legal tech.

With clients’ expectations growing, firms must ensure their resources are being utilised in the most efficient way and demonstrate their value add to clients. It’s clear that many firms need to revolutionise in order to compete. But, when this technology would free up lawyers to concentrate on real add-value work, such as providing strategic advice, why are so many, reluctant to embrace it? One reason might be the perceived risk to jobs. However, rather than seeing tech as a threat, firms should recognise its potential to help them grow and actually increase headcount. Conveyancers sit on a wealth of data: proper analysis of it will enable you to capture its innate value and use it to offer more comprehensive consulting services. Matt Taylor, a partner at Clifford Chance, agrees. At a recent roundtable hosted by news resource Legal Futures, he predicted that the shape of law firms will change and “move towards the consultant side” of the property transaction as a result of embracing technology and data. For example, Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle office, already has a hub of lawyers and legal technologists working with process designers and paralegals to trial and apply new legal technologies.

So, the message to law firms is that the leading players of the future will be staffed and shaped differently. Law practices will almost certainly start to move towards the consultancy side and develop teams which are more system savvy. Try to keep abreast of changes, identify where the landscape is shifting and what it means for your business in terms of required skills and talent. Businesses should be planning strategically, with a view to creating a team of lawyers and those providing technical expertise – such as data scientists or programmers- working closely together. Many firms will chose to enter into partnerships with these service providers. It’s important not to underestimate how quickly we will see these changes: rapid technological developments could mean more traditional companies fail to keep pace and struggle to remain relevant to their clients. The firms that keep abreast of these changes and staff their teams accordingly are the ones that will reap the commercial rewards.

To find out how Clayton Legal can help you plan for the future needs of your firm, contact us today.

Take a look at some of our other blogs to gain more insight into the legal sector.

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Are technological advancements and client expectations holding law firms back?

  • December 14, 2017

Rapid advancements in technology have been widely adopted by employers in varying sectors and geographies – and for the most part, they’ve been introduced highly effectively. However, new research suggests that the sheer rate at which technology is advancing – coupled with rising client expectations – has actually hindered the profitability of the majority of law firms here in the UK.


In an attempt to become more agile for example, and reflect the wishes and desires of millennials, law firms have set out to embrace mobile working arrangements…yet this has often proved both expensive and somewhat patchy in its effectiveness.

So where are firms falling short and what can they do to ensure their success?

PwC’s annual survey of law firms reveals that a combination of rising client expectations, increased pricing pressures and staffing costs, and a failure to keep abreast of new technologies, has led to average fee income growth of just 3%. In addition, half of the firms surveyed saw domestic profits fall. Given that technology can be of huge benefit in reducing staffing costs – through automated processes, for example – and reacting faster to clients’ demands, are these firms missing a trick? It would appear so…


As David Snell, partner and leader of PwC’s law firm advisory group says, “Fundamental action is needed to future-proof the shape and operation of the legal sector. Technology will impact all areas, from client service delivery to business support and, importantly, staff recruitment and retention.” 


Clearly, firms need to harness technology to their advantage – not only to assist their talent management strategies but crucially to deliver a better, more efficient service to their clients.

Increased agility and a focus on the client

So, how can firms focus their efforts on systems that will enable them to be more agile, increase efficiencies and ultimately deliver a better client experience? Client demands are changing, and the pressure is on law firms to manage their relationships and use their technology more innovatively.


The people agenda will continue to play a large part, and against a backdrop of skills shortages and intense competition for talent, the legal sector must embrace emerging technologies to ensure the very best legal candidates want to work at their firms. Snell, for instance, highlights artificial intelligence as one such innovation that will not only aid retention but also help firms to achieve more effective staffing levels and react faster to changing client demands.

The answer?

Recruiting, developing and retaining top talent remains a priority for boards, and while many have embraced the agile working model, it’s perhaps time that more follow suit given PwC’s findings. Especially when we consider that 84% of all respondents in a recent Grass Roots survey indicated that their benefits package is keeping them in their current role.


The message is clear; if firms want to keep staffing levels maintained in order to meet the ever-growing demands of their client base, agile working must be a part of their business model.


How does yours compare? For more information on how to adopt a more effective recruitment and retention strategy, talk to us here at Clayton Legal.

Call the team today for information about how Clayton Legal can assist your firm with recruitment and retention strategies. And for more insights from the team take a look at our other blogs and resources.

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Artificial Intelligence and the future of law firms

  • December 11, 2017

What exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

Lawyers have been making good use of LegalTech – software which allows them to do their work in a way which is more efficient and cost-effective – for some years now. A number of repetitive, labour-intensive manual processes such as reviewing documents for relevant information can now be done through automation, which enables professionals to devote more time to strategic work. But the most pioneering strand of this technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI) – software that has the capability to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. When this kind of technology is used, it promises to be faster and more accurate than a human. In a profession where attention to detail is everything and mistakes can be costly, it pays to be aware of what AI can offer.

How law firms are currently benefitting from AI

So, how is AI transforming the everyday practice of law? The most common way is during the process of document review. Once, routine tasks such as drafting contracts and analysing legal documents were often delegated to junior lawyers. Now AI can be used to proofread and intelligently detect errors such as inconsistencies and omissions far faster and more accurately than a human, which dramatically speeds up the preparation of complex documents.

AI is also expediting the process of research and improving its accuracy: cognitive intelligence applications such as Watson can, for example, search through case law and identify relevant information and patterns, then evaluate and summarise the results. This makes it a valuable tool to lawyers working on due diligence, investigations and compliance related tasks. Staff at Berwin Leighton Paisner, for example, use an AI system to extract and check data when they work on certain property disputes, in a process which now takes minutes rather than weeks.

There are also some examples of AI currently being used in ways which seem more in line with the futuristic, robotic visions depicted in science fiction. A number of firms have been experimenting with AI robotic lawyers -or ‘lawyerbots’ – which can be used to provide legal advice and answer questions over the internet. With development, this could certainly replace the ‘send a request form’ section of many firms’ websites. In addition, AI is being used to sift data to predict outcomes, one fascinating example being the algorithm created by Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Daniel Martin Katz. It predicted the outcomes of 7700 U.S. Supreme Court cases with 70 percent accuracy, making it more precise than the forecasts made by legal experts. As the technology develops, it seems reasonable to anticipate AI being used to review information in real time and conduct risk assessments in order to help deal with potential legal problems before they emerge – pre-empting litigation.

How law professionals will need to adapt

But what does this mean for the future of the legal profession? And will lawyers need new skills? Unfortunately, there isn’t any AI which makes predictions about that. However, we can assume that as more legal professionals come to recognise how useful AI is as a time- and money- saving diagnostic tool, the more they will use it to support their work. It is likely that lawyers, especially those at the junior end of the market who are often tasked with those time-consuming research and review processes, will be freed up to work on more cognitive tasks, necessitating a rethinking of how teams are structured, as well as the responsibilities allocated to individuals. It’s also worth remembering that AI is only accurate when applied correctly, so training in the use of the technology will be imperative.

Why lawyers needn’t fear being replaced by robots

All of this means that where AI was once a futuristic idea, it’s now viewed as something which can be used to complement existing technology and is likely to become as second nature to us as spell checks and predictive text are on our laptops and smartphones. It will always be a tool because it is unlikely to ever reach a human level of creativity and judgement that would allow us to see a court room of robots. And while the legal sector is still in the early stages of discovering the full potential of AI, firms wishing to be market leaders should take advantage of current and emerging technology.

What benefits can your law firm reap by adopting more AI software solutions?

Take a look at some of our other blogs to gain more insight into the legal sector

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Why are legal firms such attractive targets for hackers?

  • November 21, 2017

It’s not difficult to see why law firms are prime targets for cyber-attackers, given how much valuable personal, business critical and commercially sensitive information they hold. A firm specialising in, say, commercial property and dealing with funds transfers could provide a highly profitable source of information for relatively little outlay for a determined hacker. In fact, Friday afternoon fraud‘ where law firms are tricked into giving bank details to fraudsters, most commonly during the completion of conveyancing transactions, is now the biggest cybercrime afflicting the legal sector.

1 in 5 UK law firms targeted by hackers last month


And while this obvious vulnerability could lead many to believe that firms are braced for such attacks, new research suggests otherwise. A recent report, reveals that a fifth of UK law firms have been targeted by hackers in the last month alone. This isn’t a small group of poorly protected businesses, either: The Law Society found that 65% of firms have been a victim of a cyber incident at some point.

Prepare – or be doomed

Firms need to be prepared for the increased threat cybercrime poses to their practice – something that London School of Economics cyberlaw lecturer Mark Leiser warned earlier this year: “a law firm that relies on passive defences [such as a mitigation plan in case of an attack] is doomed.” Sobering words, indeed, yet according to The National Cyber Security Centre, only 35% of law firms have a mitigation plan and even fewer have active defences which detect cyber-attacks before they happen. Awareness and resilience within the legal sector clearly doesn’t match the threat or the potentially catastrophic consequences of such an attack.

The aftermath of a cyber-attack

So, what ‘doom’ might ensue? A cybersecurity attack may compromise a company’s infrastructure, its data –including that of its customers, its functionality and also its reputation. If that wasn’t enough, when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018, the penalties for failing to prevent such breaches will be high: for serious violations, there will be maximum fines of €20 million or 4 per cent of annual turnover.

Ensure you have cyber security expertise

It is clear that those in the legal sector must not be complacent about security or assume that they are safe from the potential risk. We can assume that as we look to the future, cyber-attacks will only get more sophisticated. Cyber-security really does need to be a board-level priority and employees across all levels of a company should receive regular training about its importance so that there is a culture of compliance. Crucially, there must be the technical ability and procedures in place to detect, report and investigate a breach. Businesses must examine whether they have the in-house skill sets to protect themselves and their clients, rather than finding out in the worst possible way that they are woefully underprepared. The NCSC’s guide ‘Ten Steps to Cyber Security‘ is a useful starting point. However, it may be the case that businesses need to seek the advice of expert IT providers or hire more talent to ensure that the proper technical measures are in place. Going forwards, some firms will look to refocus their hiring strategies to ensure that they have cyber security specialists at hand to provide ongoing and up-to-date expertise, but these individuals will be highly sought after. Regardless of how this bolstering of security takes place, it is clear that doing so is imperative: firms that fail to do so are leaving themselves extremely vulnerable to very serious consequences.

Is your firm prepared for the growing threat of hacking and cyber attacks?

To discuss how Clayton can find the right people to help keep your data safe, please contact us

Take a look at some of other blogs to gain more insight into the legal sector

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How real is the threat of cyber-attacks to legal firms?

  • September 11, 2017

In the modern, digitally-led world in which we live, threats to businesses are probably more likely to come from the web than anywhere else. In recent years there have been dozens of major cyber-attacks on businesses including Sony, TalkTalk, E-Sports, InterContinental Hotel Group, Verizon, IRS, Snapchat and many more. Even the US Presidential election was allegedly influenced by Russian hackers. Organisations within the legal sector rather obviously hold a considerable amount of potentially valuable data, but how real is threat of cyber-attacks to legal firms?

1 in 100

The UK legal industry is worth somewhere in the region of £26bn which makes research from cloud data intelligence firm, OnDmarc even more concerning. Just one of the UK’s top 100 legal firms has sufficient measures in place to protect them against even the most basic forms of email fraud. And if bigger firms – with larger resources – don’t have these defences then it’s highly unlikely smaller ones do either.

Legal firms exposed to cyber attacks

However, this should certainly not be the case and legal firms must start upping their defences to protect them from the ever growing threat of cyber-attacks. The risk of phishing attacks has risen by 65% in 2016 while the use of fake or compromised email accounts to steal information increased by 39% in the last quarter alone, according to email security firm, Mimecast. Attackers use these methods by pretending to be someone in a position of power, such as a CEO or Partner, to trick recipients into sending them confidential or valuable data.

Rois Ni Thuama, head of cyber security governance partnerships and legal at OnDmarc, commented on the findings. “With over 10,000 law firms operating in the UK, handling sensitive and hugely confidential commercial and private data, there is a real opportunity for scammers to target the legal sector. Many law firms either don’t understand the risk or assume that their existing email systems will do the job of protecting them, even though our study very quickly demonstrated that it’s all too easy for a criminal to exploit these firms’ email domains in order to impersonate the company and send out fraudulent messages to external clients and stakeholders.”

Cyber security experts wanted

What this highlights is that firms need to start thinking about their defences more than they currently are and ultimately, need to refocus their hiring strategies to incorporate cyber security specialists. However, there are few of these individuals available in any market, let alone the legal sector, which means that firms will almost essentially be forced into targeting those in other industries. But these people know their skills are few and far between and you will therefore need to be equipped with a tailored and cutting edge employer value proposition if you want to have a chance of attracting and retaining them. Offering the same package you do to lawyers will only turn cyber experts off so you need to take a leaf from the likes of the digital, tech and perhaps even financial industries which have, to date, put much more of a focus on bolstering their online defences. The organisations that don’t opt for this approach are likely to be vulnerable targets and could risk exposing their clients’ valuable and sensitive information, which they certainly want to avoid.

How do you think legal firms can deal with growing threat of cyber-attacks?

Take a look at some our other blogs to gain more insight about the legal sector

Or take a look at our current roles to find your next game-changing role.

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Top tech tools for lawyers

  • July 11, 2017

Whether you’ve been in the legal field for one year or for 25, you’ll know the value of being organised. However, in the modern ‘information overload’ world that we all live in, it can be challenging to remain on top of things. There are myriad different apps and programmes you can use to help organise your life and get ahead from your competition, however even cutting through the noise and working out what works and what doesn’t can be a major challenge. So what are the top tech tools for lawyers and how can they benefit your career?


Only the most technologically illiterate are likely to have not heard of Dropbox, the most advanced and robust file storage tool out there. As lawyers, you’ll be well aware that your existing storage space on your phone, tablet or desktop can get filled quickly with all the documents that you’re sent on a daily basis, and using a programme like Dropbox can provide extra storage as well as helping you to remain organised. It’s also a useful – and secure – tool for exchanging information online with your clients and colleagues.

Practice management

There are plenty of different types of practice management software out there, some of which are suited to firms of a certain size or specialism. However, it’s probably fair to say that the most widely effective platform is MerusCase, a tool that lets you manage and automate your cases, communication, calendar, court forms, templates and case files. And as the programme is cloud-based one of the main benefits is that everything is one place. It’s advisable to do your homework as different programmes will suit different firms and individuals, however it’s likely you’ll find that adopting the software will make you more organised and your files safer.


Ensuring your data is secure should be an absolute priority, particularly with the spate of high profile hacks taking place in recent months. If organisations with the resources of the likes of Sony, Google and IHG haven’t been able to stop hackers, then the average legal firm doesn’t stand much chance, unless that is, it invests heavily in its online defences. However, most companies still have their head in the sand when it comes to data security, and it’s often down to the individual to ensure that they remain safe when operating online. Almost every app or programme requires a password of some sort and the ever growing list of phrases with or without a grammatical symbol, number or capital letter can be hard to keep up with. By far and away the best product is Lastpass as this means you need to remember just one password. It also offers a safe and secure place to store login and credit card details, for example.

Research tools

As you’ll all be only too aware, one of the more time consuming aspects of the average lawyer’s role is research. However, that’s about to change as there are now two tools which look set to shake up the status quo in the legal industry. The first is Casetext, which contains a programme called Cara that finds relevant case law files for lawyers who upload legal documents, allowing them to get the exact cases they need. And the second is Ravel Law, which gives lawyers insights into how judges have ruled on previous cases, allowing professionals to tailor their preparations ahead of their cases, both of which can potentially save you a huge amount of time.

Work/life balance

Don’t laugh, it is possible to achieve a work/life balance when working in the legal sector. Obviously, a lot of the pressure is out of your hands, however creating boundaries is an effective way of regaining control. By using Google Voice to separate your phone lines – for free – you can set up a separate number for your firm on your mobile and restrict its hours, meaning the days of late night calls will be a thing of the past. It also means that clients can call or text you without reaching you on your personal number or pursuing you when you’re busy. You can even read transcribed voicemails and text messages when you’re in court and, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an automatic timing function so you can bill clients accordingly.

Ignore the reports, technology is here to help make our jobs easier, rather than stealing them from us. If you’d like to speak to our expert team about their favourite tech tools for lawyers then get in touch now.

What are your favourite tech tools for lawyers?

Check out some of our other blogs on the impact of technology on the legal profession. And if you’re looking for a career move, take a look at our current jobs.

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AI becoming a priority for SME legal firms

  • June 19, 2017

You’ve probably heard all about artificial intelligence and its growing use in a number of widespread industries. And if you haven’t observed its use in a business context then you will surely have seen it in films like ‘iRobot’, ‘Ex Machina’ and, well…‘AI’. But the idea that businesses could harness the potential of artificial intelligence in a legal setting and use it to their firms’ advantage was surely only a distant dream?


Legal firms have increasingly adopted artificial intelligence led programmes for a few years now, indeed we wrote an article for Totally Legal on that very subject only last year. However, until recently this advanced technology was the sole preserve of firms with vast resources – and deep pockets – but that all appears to be about to change.

AI priority for legal firms

According to recent, extensive analysis conducted by our team here at Clayton Legal, small and medium sized legal firms both recognise the importance of the use of AI, regard it as an opportunity to be embraced and do not feel threatened by its impact on their business.

As one of the respondents to our research project, Andrew Kwan – solicitor advocate at Clear Law – put it, “This approach allows us some advantages including being agile within a changing legal market. Therefore I can see the utilisation of AI as being an opportunity to deliver greater value to clients, both individuals and businesses, by removing some of the administrative elements of the process.”

And it’s not only senior professionals who are experiencing this optimism. Miriam Khan – a junior colleague of Khan at Clear Law, made the point that AI and human skill sets should complement each other rather than take opposing sides, “The profound purpose of AI is to save the need for time, cost and energy on manual labour and increase efficiency. Why do a job that a computer can do for you?”

Opportunity for skills development

Our own managing director, Lynn Sedgwick, also commented on the increased adoption of AI by small and medium sized firms. “While firms such as Linklaters and Clifford Chance have moved to use AI in several different areas, this is very much about driving efficiencies, rather than eradicating jobs. AI is becoming a priority for legal firms and the smaller practices that we spoke to are also hoping to generate higher fees and ensure that processes can be and will be outsourced to machines.”

“For employers, this has huge benefits but it also offers their people more interesting work, making the workplace a more satisfying place to be in, in a marketplace where retention is key.  For legal professionals at all levels, the introduction of AI represents an opportunity to develop new skills, and for those who are open to change, to increase their value in the marketplace. The interpersonal and technological skills required to adapt to the new AI infused working environment are likely to bring benefits to all that choose to engage with them.”

“The human element can’t, at least yet, be replaced by a robot. Andrew Kwan really sums it up when he says: ‘I do not see AI removing the elements where you are a compassionate human. You can’t remove this from a process and expect a great result for your client.”

We would love to hear you views on the role that AI has to play at small and medium sized firms – do you agree with Lynn that the introduction of AI represents an opportunity to develop new skills and increase individuals’ value in their marketplace? Or do you believe that AI could ultimately lead to jobs being cut?

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