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Quality Engineering for Digital Transformation – A Change in Mindset for the Legal Sector

A recent Wolters Kluwer report found that only 33% of lawyers believe their organisations are ‘very prepared’ to keep up with technology changes and digital transformation in the legal market.

Interestingly the lawyers perhaps have more confidence than their technology teams as according to similar research conducted by Gartner, only 19% of law firms in-house technology teams are ready to move forward with enterprise-level digital strategies.

In an industry that has significant opportunities for increasing speed and reducing cost by using technology, these stats don’t provide confidence that those opportunities can be realised.

According to a Tableau report, such opportunities include automating the estimated 23% of lawyers’ tasks that are currently done manually but could be automated by existing technologies. Technologies that the legal sector has been slow to adopt.

The cadence of adoption is predicted to increase though with Legal-Tech firms expecting their innovative products and services to be leveraged up to 40% more over the next 3 years than today.

These innovations include AI driven legal research tools and document reading and comparison solutions that can reportedly achieve 36,000-man hours of effort in a few seconds, according to results released by JP Morgan. A huge saving in time for legal firms and in costs for their clients, increasing competitive advantage.

On the face of it, you can understand the historic reluctance of the legal sector to embrace digital transformation. They are a sector steeped in tradition and process and are very risk adverse. Now the risk is that they are being left behind by more tech focussed competitors that can leverage their tech credentials to attract the best legal talent, gain more customers and build a reputation for quality and speed.

Seemingly then, things are changing, with the American Bar Association reporting that only 8% of legal firms were likely move to cloud in 2019 – but this jumped to nearly 60% by 2021 – most likely driven by the pandemic.

Given the stats mentioned about technology departments and lawyers not being confident that they ready for transformative digital change – though appearing to be a strategic focus – in my view, there is a clear need to concentrate on mitigating that risk and working to ensure investments in technology work as intended, first time around.

To put it simply, quality needs to be at the heart of the adoption of new solutions and ways of working otherwise they will not deliver the return-on-investment partners at legal firms are looking for – thus wasting time and money, and risking client retention.

You may think that all technology projects are designed to focus on quality – but the numbers suggest that this perhaps isn’t the case. The Standish Group’s research of over 50,000 technology projects found that only 29% were considered successful – a staggering stat!

Many technology projects then fail to meet requirements, don’t go in on time, overspend, and worst of all, don’t ever see the light of day.

The reason is that these failing projects are not designed to build quality into a solution, instead the focus is more likely just to check business critical functionality works and to flag issues; issues that will require more time and money to resolve (if they can be resolved).

This is true of all sectors but, through working for Roq, an independent Quality Engineering consultancy, I have seen first-hand the value that can be delivered to the process focussed, risk-adverse legal sector by focusing on building quality into a solution from the outset.

For example, Roq has saved hundreds of thousands of pounds for our legal sector clients by injecting quality into solutions to ensure technology projects are delivered ahead of schedule and business requirements are met first time around. You can read about a recent example of that here.

The legal sector is then, despite the slow start, going through its very own digital transformation journey. The sector is leveraging new technologies to support much faster and more remote working, deal with regulatory changes, such as the not insignificant impact caused by changes to the UK / EU relationship and provide new services to clients.

For example, Olive Communications recent study states that 70% of clients would rather use an automated online system or “lawbot” to handle their legal affairs instead of a human lawyer because of three important factors—cost, speed, and ease of use. Such a service needs to be of the highest quality to ensure accuracy and of course, adherence to the law.

The old approach to technology projects, and the high failure rate, is no longer being tolerated by the partners of legal firms – they are demanding that solutions work as intended first time around – i.e. that they have quality baked in from the earliest opportunity.

What then, is Quality Engineering exactly and how can it support the legal sector through Digital Transformation?

In my view, Quality Engineering is about embedding professionals with a quality mindset at every stage of the software development lifecycle. This is because often, the regularity and speed of change inherent in modern technology projects requires that quality be part of every step, otherwise, all that is achieved is poor quality, but faster. Something the legal sector cannot accept.

Some of the more specific features of the approach are:

  • Test professionals being involved in architecture design, requirements gathering, working with users (lawyers and clients). Ideally creating executable requirements that feed straight into automated tests.

  • Leverage test automation wherever practicable, focus on repeatability, maintainability, and speed, for example, more API than GUI.

  • Increase speed. For example, through parallel execution and regression testing that kicks off automatically following code changes, thanks to Quality Engineers integration into delivery pipelines.

  • Focus manual effort on testing that cannot be automated, exploratory testing and niche/unique testing events.

The biggest feature though is the mindset shift required from all involved (including partners who will need to support the change) to ensure everyone understands that the goal is a quality product and therefore quality needs to be considered at every stage. This approach adds value across the SDLC, reducing the cost and time taken to arrive at a quality product (something that will appeal to partners with an eye on the bottom line).

Quality Engineering then is the way to increase collaboration, quality, and productivity – the holy trinity that all of those in the legal sector should want to achieve – as this will enable them to leverage digital transformation to modernise their business, attracting top legal talent and prestigious clients into their firms.

Thanks for reading.

David Moore – Client Services Manager, Roq


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