The big issue of legal tech, i.e. the digitization of legal work, has penetrated the workplace of lawyers and legal practitioners in recent years like no other. The increased use of software in law firms and legal departments means that internal processes and even entire legal services run automatically, which increases work efficiency and saves costs.
This has resulted in new demands and approaches: Today, better and adaptive software is needed more than ever – in other words, software that is perfectly tailored to the needs and requirements of the user. This software is best developed where it is most needed and used – in the company itself.
But high-quality software does not appear out of nowhere. Software development including the associated applications requires either a trained in-house IT department or cost-intensive external IT services. However, that is not the case with no and low coding platforms (NLC). With these platforms, it is possible to build, adapt and extend applications with only a little or limited IT knowledge.
Self-developed and tailored software is trending. Many companies tend to develop, adapt and distribute their own software. Users become developers, in turn becoming providers of software, data and content. This has resulted in unimagined possibilities and new business models in recent years.
Users as developers as providers: Low vs. No Coding
What is low and no coding and how do these approaches differ?
No coding focuses on the business user. An IT affinity is helpful to understand how the software works and to recognize and exploit the potential of new approaches, but is not strictly necessary. The software should be created where it is used in order to achieve the greatest possible benefit. The code is not created manually, but implicitly with the help of graphical interfaces. When a text with variables is created, the software automatically creates a dialog box and an interface to the data-holding backend system in the background. The focus here is on the benefit for the user.
With the help of low coding, on the other hand, users can create and extend powerful software applications themselves with a minimum of handwritten source code. Low coding focuses more on experienced IT users and software developers. The use of prefabricated components and code fragments and automated building reduces the error rate. The aim is to save time and costs and to increase quality and efficiency.
What makes NLC so strong? The main reasons for NLC approaches making a breakthrough right now and becoming even more widespread and established in the future are the following:
Cost and scalability: NLC environments are available in the cloud and are often offered as a subscription with a usage-based price. No high initial investment is required and applications can be scaled without incurring fixed costs. In addition to low and variable costs, the cloud offers sufficient computing power, sufficient storage, and a level of security that conventional companies cannot achieve or can only achieve with considerable investment.
IT independence and time savings: Companies use NLC platforms to relieve the burden on their own IT department through low coding and to enable or accelerate digitization in the departments in the first place through no coding. The time from development to market launch is reduced considerably, resulting in a significant competitive advantage.
Reach and B2B stores in the cloud: NLC platforms in the cloud have an enormous reach. Self-created software becomes visible worldwide through the stores.
Central benefits of NLC platforms
There is now a wide range of NLC platforms on the market. The platforms offer fully integrated software environments for development and often even cover the complete development process. The main distinguishing features are the no-code functions included in the standard, the pre-configured integration possibilities as well as the extensibility of the platforms with additional function modules and the adaptability of the automatically generated apps. The central benefits are the following:
Single-handed software development and deployment: The applications do not have to be designed from scratch. Prefabricated frameworks can be used, which are also adaptable.
Speed and quality: On an NLC platform, small projects can be implemented and rolled out within hours, medium-sized projects in days and large projects in a few weeks or months and therefore much faster than usual. The bottleneck factor is no longer the adaptation and testing of software, but only the content management when changing the internal organization and structures.
Agility: NLC promotes and demands agility in software and organizational development. Large and lengthy projects become small and fast projects with greater benefits. Last but not least, NLC facilitates and accelerates organizational development and changes in the service offering. Central features of an application can be implemented directly as a prototype and immediately tested in practice. Testing, discarding or using and improving thus becomes the guiding principle.
Acceptance: Self-created or adapted software is much more accepted and used than off-the-shelf products. Law firms and legal departments can optimize themselves better and the dependence on third parties is reduced.
IT independence: On the basis of the NLC platform, business users in law firms and legal departments can act independently. Lawyers do not have to become software developers and conversely, software developers do not need to study law. A legal engineer is not absolutely necessary when using the NLC technology.
New services and business models
Self-created software can be used to change and improve the service offering and customer experience. For example, the replies to simple legal inquiries could be offered as a self-service. It is also possible to prepare and perhaps even carry out the clarification by means of an automated legal chatbot.
Authorizations can be set and this logic can be mapped in a document. The legal department does not provide plain sample contracts as templates, but rather document containers in which consistent document variants are created by simple mouse clicks. Business users can only make changes if they are authorized. The logic ensures that the documents remain consistent and comply with legal requirements and corporate guidelines.
The document container and the associated business process could be part of a case management application. The process changes depending on the business user. Changing liability clauses requires the approval of a qualified lawyer. The process changes automatically. If certain limits are exceeded, a committee must be involved. The business process changes accordingly.
When the legal department or committee approves the variant, it is automatically available as an option in all relevant contracts. Contracts and processes are thus continuously improved. This example represents a typical application that can be implemented on a specialized platform such as the Enterprise Compliance and Agility Platform (ECAP) with a few days’ effort. With ECAP, there are specialized document-intensive processes for service providers and business experts at hand.
The law firm could also become a software provider. On the basis of the document containers, it could offer to be liable for the legality of the documents. If liability is endangered due to a user action, the law firm is automatically involved and thus slips into the role of a consultant. Law firm and client move closer together. Fast and direct accessibility makes the legal department and law firm a business enabler and accelerator – completely new roles for the firm. This influences the customer experience and customer loyalty and ultimately changes the business model.
Conclusion: Benefits and recommendations for action
With the introduction of NLC, a rethinking process is taking place within legal departments and law firms. Tasks are redistributed and employees are relieved of certain tasks. This not only changes the way the company works together, but also the customer experience. The software is not only developed at the source, but can also be continuously optimized and brought to market from there.
NLC platforms do not require a large up-front investment or fixed costs, making them attractive for smaller departments and law firms. While legal tech and software-based legal services and products were left to the big players, NLC is now opening up this segment to smaller law firms and even lone wolves. Through NLC, further areas of legal work can be penetrated in the future, which influences the scope, speed and quality.
Any lawyer who is concerned with the question of how legal professions will change in the future, which technology will play a role in shaping the legal work of tomorrow and where there is potential for optimization and innovation, must deal with no/low coding and platforms. Every law firm and every legal department should have a clear position on this and ideally a suitable strategy.