The innovations that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic have emphasized the importance of the user experience. Businesses in a variety of industries have had to shift to remote work overnight, and in many cases, their old technologies simply haven’t been able to make the jump. In fact, the demand for easy-to-use tools and software that are capable of facilitating effective online collaboration has increased significantly. The digital workspace Mural, for instance, experienced 1,000% growth over the course of 2020.
Despite the legal industry’s being a slow-to-change space, it is experiencing the same demand for innovation. Even before the pandemic, spending on legal-technology investments in 2019 was about $1.1 billion. Innovation in the legal industry is necessary for ediscovery, better legal-practice management, quicker decision-making, and improving the likelihood of positive legal-case outcomes. Contactless touchpoints and the shift to remote legal work has only accelerated UX trends in the industry.
Even though the world is moving rapidly toward the next new normal, UX trends remain the main focus of legal firms’ digital-transformation initiatives. Things are changing, and firms that lag behind will eventually fail.
Reviewing the Legal Industry’s Changing UX Trends
The new normal has accelerated UX trends in the legal sphere. That’s because so many of the industry’s critical tasks require professionals to interact with clients. Any tools that facilitate remote legal work have helped legal professionals to do their jobs safely and effectively. For instance, esignatures have enabled people to securely sign documents without being face to face, and videoconferencing software has enabled lawyers and attorneys to meet with clients safely.
According to Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report, 85% of firms are using software to manage their legal practices. But when an industry undergoes a digital transformation, there is a new question to answer: How can we make these tools better? Existing processes, systems, and software might be clumsy and hard to use. Just because more firms have implemented new technology, that does not mean it’s offering the best user experience possible.
But legal professionals must be able to practice law now; they can’t wait for someone to guide them through a counterintuitive user interface. As the legal industry has become more technologically mature, the need for better user experiences has accelerated. Innovations must address the most exhausting manual tasks, fit into existing workflows, and meet people where they are—not pigeonhole them into processes or user interfaces that do not work for legal professionals or their practice.
Exploring Good User Experiences for the Legal Industry
Gartner estimates that legal firms will automate 50% of major corporate transactions by 2024, so it’s no surprise that firms are investing in better user experiences. They must keep up with the changing landscape. But how can firms and developers know whether their design efforts are successful? In the legal industry, a good user experience should do the following:
Encourage widespread adoption.
Let’s consider each of these goals in greater detail.
1. Encourage widespread adoption.
For legal teams to reap the benefits of software, they have to use it. To ensure everyone uses the software, firms and developers must focus on the user experience. It’s common for people to resist change and fall back on their tried-and-true solutions—even if that means taking notes on a yellow legal pad. Mediocre user interfaces are unappealing, which is why UX industry trends highlight attractiveness and accessibility.
No one wants to click something on a screen, then have to wait through an unnecessary delay, especially if they have to take the same action multiple times every day. Plus, there is nothing more infuriating than feeling lost in an unintuitive and unnecessarily complex user interface. Good software never repels its users. A good user experience is even more critical in the complex legal field, which requires people to manage details precisely and at a brisk pace.
Think about tasks that take a long time and end up frustrating team members. What would improve their user experience? For instance, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP implemented robotic process automation for a large class-action lawsuit. Typically, law firms would dedicate large teams of legal professionals to reviewing documents and transcribing information into a database, taking thousands of hours for this task. By using helpful technology that provides a straightforward user experience, the firm processed 100,000 letters in about six months.
2. Support security.
Data and information protection is a huge priority for legal professionals. Personally identifiable information, financial information, nondisclosure agreements, business contracts, and other matters are all highly confidential. Bad user experiences can lead to mistakes and unnecessary risks.
For instance, legal professionals who had to log in to a platform every time they used it might create short passwords to make things easier. In trying to make technology more secure, developers might have failed to consider the login process of everyday users. User-friendly features such as biometric authentication and time-based logout warnings can make it easier for teams to use software more safely.
The best thing developers can do to support software security is to simplify processes and minimize friction. Avoid using fear to encourage users to take actions. Fear activates a negative response in people, making them less likely to comply with security workflows. The goal should be to help legal teams easily access the information and capabilities they need so they can focus on their job—not on using a frustrating interface.
3. Convey competence.
Legal software should live up to the standards that the industry holds for legal professionals. For instance, attorneys’ traditional image means they carry briefcases rather than backpacks. Why? Appearance matters. A well-dressed legal team, a sophisticated office, and appropriate branding demonstrate competence and professionalism.
Legal software must also convey professionalism and competence. Clunky, cluttered user interfaces are confusing and hard to trust. Software that’s difficult to access and use won’t impress clients or new team members. But a visually appealing user interface that improves everyone’s workflows can indicate that a firm is both successful and at the cutting edge.
The legal industry needs to keep up with the changing software landscape, which is why so many legal firms are investing in digital transformation. For these initiatives to be successful, users must find software solutions valuable, useful, and usable. That’s why developers and firms in the legal space are prioritizing the user experience.
As head of product strategy and design at Frogslayer, a custom software–development and digital–innovation firm, Tim partners with forward-looking, client companies to design and develop custom-software tools. These clients partner with Frogslayer to rapidly build, launch, and scale innovative software products and digital platforms that create new revenue streams and sources of competitive advantage that quickly accelerate growth and increase profits. Tim holds a user experience certification from Nielsen Norman Group. Read More