How important is the retention of the human touch in legal services to clients amid ever-increasing use of technology within law firms?

Alisa Gray, our director of business development, recently contributed to Modern Law magazine, discussing the retention of the human touch in the legal profession and its importance as we experience a growing use of technology within law firms. Here’s what she had to say.

Technology is a significant aid to all who deliver professional services, whether lawyer, accountant or medical professional. Yet, despite continuous technological advancements, I would never think of these professions as faceless –  quite the opposite. People operating within these roles are focused on building and maintaining strong relationships with clients and colleagues, and accept that professionalism is reliant on the ability to connect with others, the so-called “human touch”.  We have a choice in how we implement technology within our working world – it would seem foolish to abandon this approach and detach ourselves from our clients in favour of more tech-led services.

Law affects peoples’ lives in myriad ways, from buying a house or business, to more traumatic events such as divorce, or even violent crime. Although technology increases the ease and frequency of client communications, we shouldn’t confuse quantity with quality or use technology to shield ourselves from connecting with our clients. Transactions and cases are not abstract conundrums which need resolving but are ultimately people issues which require facilitation, dialogue and sensitivity. Between our data-crunching algorithms and email response times, we need to ensure our focus remains on dealing with clients as human beings, fostering a human-centred approach.

By that, I mean embracing basic values. Take the medical profession, for example. As a patient you would neither want nor expect to be given the news that you had cancer by artificial intelligence (AI). Alongside the hard facts, you want a good serving of empathy and understanding.  In the legal profession, our patients are clients and our “bedside manner” equally important when delivering advice. As humans, we crave personal experiences which is why the human touch will never become irrelevant, in any profession.

However, technology will certainly have an impact on professional operations. BDO’s Law Firm Leadership Survey 2017 revealed that 80% of respondents pointed to technology as the factor most likely to have an impact on their firm over the next five years, with many suggesting that AI will have the greatest impact, believing it would replace the work of lawyers, or strip out a significant layer of work and revenue from law firms.

The value of technology isn’t in its replacement of humans or the human touch but its ability to free us from lower level and time-consuming tasks so that we can redirect our precious time and energy resources into building relationships and personalising client experiences.

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