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A Sign of the Times: Out of the Filing Cabinet and into the Future

Digital transformation is happening all around us as companies strive to embrace technology and keep up with the relentless push to streamline business processes. The legal industry is no exception, but it continues to battle the stereotypes of being outdated, set in its ways and too deeply steeped in tradition. It turns out that some people, and even many lawyers, view legal professionals as the curmudgeons in the corner, resisting change. Who knows, maybe it was all that talk about stare decisis in law school. Regardless of the reason, attitudes seem to be shifting as new technology makes way for digital progress across the board. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work to be done.Adobe_ADCLegal_Infographic

With this in-mind, we surveyed more than 300 legal professionals in the U.S. to find out how they view and use technology. It’s no surprise that in 2015 we discovered that nearly all (92%) of those surveyed believe that technology is important to their success on the job and that 71% say that their workplace needs to embrace new ways of working to be more competitive. And, 87% cite that it’s important to adopt new technology to get their jobs done efficiently. That has certainly proven true at Adobe. We’ve shifted the majority of our paper-based processes to digital with Adobe Document Cloud and we’ve never looked back.

Adobe is not alone. The survey shows us that legal professionals see the importance of adopting new technology, but feel that their own industry is holding them back. Nearly 70% of respondents cited that the legal industry overall is resistant to technological change and 53% viewing the lack of partner/senior management support as one of the biggest inhibitors. No wonder half of all legal professionals surveyed store critical documents in filing cabinets. And there they sit, hard to find, impossible to search or re-use and difficult to share with colleagues. Legal professionals just aren’t provided with the technology and flexibility to work effectively and keep up with business.

Working remotely and signing documents electronically are just a few of the growing workplace trends sweeping the legal profession. According to our survey, 80% of legal professionals either work remotely or want to, but nearly 45% have had to stay late at the office to obtain a handwritten signature. In addition, more than half have had to wait a day or more for someone to physically sign a document. And, a little over 20% have missed an important revenue deadline because they had to wait for a wet signature. Think about it. Missing something as important as making your quarterly number just because you couldn’t get someone to physically sign in time? How can legal professionals possibly achieve both the efficiency and flexible work environment that they clearly want, if they’re chained to their desk by archaic approval processes?

That being said, things are not all doom and gloom. Sixty-two percent of legal professionals surveyed are using e-signatures in some form today and adoption rates are on the rise. In fact, 32% of those using e-signatures today only started within the past year, so it seems that the legal profession’s perceived reluctance to change is evolving. As more lawyers are exposed to the benefits of technology, like e-signatures, the legal profession will break away from stereotypes, save time and money for both firms and the clients they support, and be more competitive overall. The time is now for lawyers to move beyond the filing cabinet and into the future!

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