This article is part of a series on the future of legal tech. It’s reflections and beliefs revolving the current dilemmas and crossroads in the legal business - mostly regarding the choices made in the digital spectre, choices which very well may determine whether legal firms will perish or prevail.
So, you want to implement automation in the most trivial work processes at your law firm. You are doing it to lower customer billings, so that your company will obtain a competitive advantage, and you are fully aware of the required strategy to carry through on this choice. But now you wonder how to implement the automation. Do you comb the market for available generic solutions? - Or do you raise the budget and invest in a customised product tailored your company procedures and needs? To put it short: It depends. But in a longer version, we usually find the following to be valid:
Buying a product off the shelf seems like an obvious safe choice. The supplier might be a big well-respected company, which inspires confidence. The product is most likely commonly accepted in the market, meaning functionalities are reliable. And the expenses will be fixed, so there is no risk of unpleasant (and costly) surprises as there might be when developing a solution of your own. At least you might think so.
Cheap means inflexible and expensive
Understandably it’s hard to see why a law firm should invest in a custom-build solution if there exist similar products in the market. There is just one quite significant problem. With a generic product, the design and functionalities are predefined. You are not able to influence it. This means that if the system doesn’t fit your existing work processes adequately, then it’s just too bad. You will then have to approach things differently, so they will. “Off course you could choose to modify the product to match your company needs better instead. But this scenario will lead to further unintended expenses. Modifying and tweaking a system into doing things it intentionally wasn’t supposed to require the involvement of consultants with a scarce – and therefore costly - set of skills”, says co-founder of Whyyy, Søren Nielsen. No matter what you choose, the cheap off-the-shelf-solution will not be cheap in the end.
So, let's take a look at the alternative: The custom-build solution. With such an approach, you will eventually get a system matching your specific company needs - not just reasonably, but brilliantly. "You will get a system designed to match your work procedures instead of you having to design your work procedures to match the system. The solution will provide what you need the way you need it. There will be no set of wide-ranging functionalities of which you only need some, and this will increase usability significantly", says Søren Nielsen. Employees will face no obstacles and make no use of workarounds when carrying out their tasks. This is true optimization.