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  • Writer's pictureHarmony Oswald, Esq.

2023 State of Courts: 3 Ways Lenders Can Oil the Wheels of Justice this Year

Updated: Jul 25, 2023


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing delays and backlogs are still a large, lingering issue in the courts. Despite the advent of new legal technology (legaltech), a significant portion of the legal community continues to use outdated methods for dispute resolution, evidence management, and other legal tasks. In light of recent developments, lenders now have an unprecedented opportunity to demand legal support that leverages high-tech tools to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and deliver better outcomes. These technological advancements also have the capacity to reshape the way courts operate. By selectively partnering with tech-savvy law firms, financiers can strategically pressure the legal industry to update and create positive changes, ultimately benefiting themselves and the justice system as a whole.

In this article, we will suggest three ways that leading financiers can call for change. To successfully influence the modern legal landscape, a lender should: (1) study to clearly understand the reasons behind the delayed state of the courts, (2) recognize the direct and indirect implications of proactively demanding tech-savvy legal support and (3) take action to vet, identify, and engage with technologically competent counsel.


1. Study to clearly understand the reasons behind the delayed state of the courts


The COVID-19 pandemic had a jarring impact on the U.S. legal system. Many courts adopted a predominantly virtual setting for their hearings and status conferences, and the economic disarray that took place during this time created backlogs and hearing delays that continue to cause problems. Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters, over 58% of court officials reported a decrease or stagnation in staffing budgets. While courts struggle to catch up with their workload, judges and lawyers could benefit from the employment of new technology that helps reduce backlog and carry out tasks more efficiently. The courts are witnessing a digital revolution from the sidelines. Sophisticated technological systems are being created to replace traditional paper-based processes. Digital case management platforms, electronic filing systems, and online dispute resolution mechanisms are gaining traction, but there is still a long way to go. Only 40% of respondents in the aforementioned survey say they have introduced new or improved work methods, processes, or service innovations within the past 12 months. The results also indicated that 75% of respondents do not use digital evidence management systems, and 66% of respondents reported that they would benefit from doing so.

The shift towards digitalization aims to enhance accessibility, efficiency, and transparency in the legal system. Thomson Reuters estimates that “a more widespread use of technologies such as evidence management systems and document automation could go a long way to bringing the court system out of its previous reliance on paper files, overstuffed dockets, and failed in-person appearances that all still contribute to case-delays and calendar backlogs.” The more these tools are used to optimize legal processes, the more efficient the industry can become. The legal system has long been criticized for its inefficiency and slow adoption of technology. However, the year 2023 presents a unique opportunity for banks and financiers to exert their influence and drive much-needed change in the legal market.


2. Recognize the implications of proactively demanding tech-savvy legal support


Direct Benefits for Lenders:


Improved Efficiency: Tech-savvy law firms leverage cutting-edge technologies to automate routine processes, streamline document management, and accelerate legal research. By harnessing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, these firms can analyze vast amounts of legal information quickly and accurately, significantly improving efficiency and reducing the time spent on case preparation and analysis.


Expedited Legal Proceedings: Tech-savvy lawyers understand the importance of leveraging technology to expedite legal proceedings. They utilize electronic filing systems, virtual courtrooms, and secure online platforms for communication and collaboration. These tools eliminate geographical barriers, allowing lawyers to represent clients effectively, regardless of their physical location. By engaging with counsel who embraces such digital tools, lenders can ensure that their legal matters progress smoothly and swiftly.


Enhanced Case Management: Tech-savvy law firms employ advanced case management systems that provide centralized access to case files, documents, and updates. These systems enable seamless collaboration between legal teams, clients, and financiers, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Real-time updates and secure document sharing facilitate efficient communication and decision-making, ultimately benefiting financiers by keeping them informed and involved throughout the legal process.


Increased Cost-Effectiveness: Tech-savvy legal support offers cost-effective solutions to banks. By leveraging technology, these firms can reduce administrative overheads, minimize paperwork, and optimize resource allocation. They can complete work more efficiently with fewer employees. The efficiency gained through technological advancements translates into cost savings for lenders, who can expect reduced legal fees, shorter proceedings, and fewer resources expended on legal matters.


Enhanced Data Security and Privacy: Digital platforms offer robust security measures to protect sensitive client information. With data encryption, access controls, and secure storage, law firms can ensure the confidentiality and integrity of client data. This is particularly crucial when dealing with banks and financiers, as sensitive financial information is often shared during legal proceedings. Adopting new technology helps law firms maintain trust, protect client confidentiality, and meet stringent data protection regulations.


Indirect Benefits for Lenders:


While it may not be obvious, financiers hold a significant position of power in the legal system. They are the driving force behind the legal proceedings they participate in, such as contract disputes, fraud litigation, and bankruptcy proceedings. Given their influence and involvement in the legal process, financiers can leverage their position to push for greater efficiency and technological advancements. By hiring tech-savvy law firms, they can amplify the demand for updated practices and force the legal market to adapt to the changing times. Consequently, hiring tech-savvy firms could benefit the industry as a whole by encouraging the justice system to adopt more efficient practices.


Move Law Firms Forward: It is no secret that the legal industry has been slow to adopt new technologies. This resistance to change has resulted in inefficiencies, backlogs, and wasted time and money for financiers. By hiring tech-savvy law firms exclusively, lenders can set a strong precedent and demonstrate that they expect efficiency and modern practices in their legal representation. This approach not only benefits the financiers themselves, it also puts pressure on other law firms to embrace technology and streamline their operations.

The impact of backlogs in courts is felt across the nation, affecting lenders throughout the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a snowball effect of delayed cases and mounting backlogs. Waiting for the backlog to resolve itself is not a viable solution. Instead, banks should take proactive measures to address this issue by partnering with tech-savvy law firms that can navigate these challenges and expedite legal proceedings. In doing, so, it may encourage the court system to adopt these changes as well.


Move Courtrooms Forward: Keep in mind, judges start their legal careers as lawyers. Exclusively hiring tech-savvy attorneys will promote a legal environment in which firms are required to become technologically advanced to continue thriving. By setting these standards, law firms generally will be forced to adapt or be left behind, and the legal industry will inevitably advance. The changes implemented will not only establish technological proficiency in many firms. It will also eventually lead to even greater use of technology in the courtrooms when these lawyers become judges. As a result, the hiring of tech-savvy law firms will undoubtedly contribute to a more digitally proficient justice system in the future, resulting in reduced time and lower litigation costs for lenders.


3. Take action to vet, identify, and engage with technologically competent counsel


When looking for a tech-savvy lawyer or law firm, financiers should consider the following criteria during their initial consultation:


Technology Competence: A tech-savvy lawyer embraces modern legal technologies, such as electronic discovery tools, filing systems, and document management systems. They use virtual collaboration platforms to stay connected and appear in court remotely when possible. They are knowledgeable about current technologies and their applications in the legal field. For examples of emerging legaltech and other software beneficial to modern law firms, see the links below.


Emphasis on Efficiency: Tech-savvy lawyers prioritize efficiency in their practice. They actively seek ways to automate routine tasks, leverage AI-powered tools for legal research, and streamline case management processes to deliver optimal results in a timely manner. In your interview, be sure to ask about which technologies attorneys use to streamline processes and reduce the time spent on case preparation and analysis. It will also be beneficial to inquire if a lawyer or firm measures its efficiency through KPIs. Be sure to discuss your goals and expectations, and see if they have a system in place to track important metrics like time management and finances.


Track Record of Innovation: Look for lawyers or firms with a history of adopting innovative practices. This can include implementing new technologies, developing streamlined processes, or leading industry conversations regarding legal tech adoption. Review reputable online websites for relevant reviews from previous clients, and check the lawyer’s LinkedIn profile, to see how they represent themselves before the public. During the initial consultation, discuss with the lawyer their views regarding leveraging technology to enhance efficiency, and ask what they’ve done to pioneer change in the legal industry.


Knowledge of ethics: While technology can indisputably streamline legal processes, it must be used responsibly to avoid any legal issues. Tech-savvy lawyers will be well acquainted with the complexities of how ethics rules can impact the use of technology in practice. Inquire whether or not they are familiar with ethics issues in technology, and how they would utilize this knowledge to prevent costly litigation.


Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Tech-savvy lawyers demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning and staying abreast of emerging technologies and industry trends. They actively participate in, for example, legal tech conferences, workshops, and training programs to enhance their skills and knowledge. Review the lawyer’s website/blogs and be on the lookout for any associations, committees, or volunteer work they participate in to stay on top of modern trends.


Conclusion:

The legal landscape in 2023 is ripe for transformation, and lenders have the power to drive this change by (1) studying to clearly understand the reasons behind the delayed state of the courts, (2) recognizing the direct and indirect implications of proactively demanding tech-savvy legal support and (3) taking action to vet, identify, and engage with technologically competent counsel. Through the exclusive hiring of law firms that employ modern approaches, lenders can effectively “oil the wheels of justice” to ensure timely and cost-effective resolutions for themselves and other litigants into the future.

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The author, Tenor D. Ickes, was born in Wurzburg, Germany, to U.S. military parents serving abroad. He is a summer intern at Oswald Law Firm, where he enjoys writing on trending business, banking & finance law, and litigation topics. He earned a B.A. from San Jose State University while working as a law clerk at a Silicon Valley banking litigation firm. He is an incoming 2L student at UC College of the Law San Francisco where he is pursuing a Juris Doctor degree, and he is a student member of the San Francisco Bank Attorneys Bar Association and The Bar Association of San Francisco. In his free time, Tenor enjoys spending time with family, international travel, and writing music.


The above article provides information only and does not create an attorney client relationship. It should not and cannot be construed as legal advice. Need help with CA commercial finance litigation or enforcement? Oswald Law Firm can help. Contact Harmony Oswald, Esq. at hno@oswaldfirm.com


Harmony Oswald serves on the ELFA Innovation Council Advisory Board. In 2016, she earned a Juris Doctor degree and a High Tech Law Certificate with Honors from Santa Clara University School of Law. In 2021, she was featured on the cover of the Silicon Valley Business Journal Book of Lists for her pioneering work in legaltech. To learn more about Harmony Oswald's background in technology & innovation, visit harmonyoswald.com


Copyright 2023 Oswald Law Firm. All Rights Reserved.




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