Paper still the rule for law firms

Australian law firms continue to rely on paper documents for the bulk of their work despite increased mobile work practices within the profession, according to research commissioned by Fuji Xerox Australia.

Research conducted by Colmar Burton across more than 100 Australian law firms (with 300 or less employees), revealed that 80 percent of firms still print some or all documents which they receive electronically while 79 percent use mainly hard-copies when exchanging documents. The main reasons given for printing electronically-received documents were force of habit (43 percent), legal requirements (42 percent) and easier access (31 percent).

“As a profession whose primary resource is knowledge, the legal profession stands to gain substantially from electronic document processes that optimise their workflows for greater efficiencies,” said Elizabeth Leslie, Marketing Programs Manager - Solutions at Fuji Xerox Australia.

“While tradition continues to be a key factor in legal practice, particularly in preference to paper over digital formats, our research suggests that firms are beginning to embrace technology, particularly in the area of mobile working.”

The research indicated that 38 percent of legal professionals now work remotely at least once a week, with interviewees identifying mobile devices as allowing them to respond to communications and access legislation more readily than before. However, 45 percent of legal professionals continue to be office bound or continue to work from the office.

“The steady growth of mobility in the legal industry still faces several significant challenges, including the continuing dominance of printed documents and a lack of integration between home, work and mobile devices,” said Leslie.

“The research suggests that the BYOD trend already observed in numerous industries is starting to take hold in the legal profession; however, law firms must work to remove existing business-process obstacles to harness its full potential for increased productivity.”

As a result of changing business models and growing competition, law firms are increasingly adopting management frameworks that aim to optimise core operations within the business. According to the research, 45 percent of firms now employ a non-practising managing director, while a growing percentage incorporate fixed-price billing into their pricing arrangements.

“As a result of this renewed focus on business fundamentals, the legal industry looks set to grow increasingly efficient in the coming years,” said Leslie. “This evolution in both courts and offices means a solid understanding of core business trends, particularly BYOD and document management, will be of growing benefit to Australian law firms.”