The Legal Technology Future Horizons report, to be released by the International Legal Technology Association in January, examines the potential impact of technology advances on the legal industry over the next decade. Fast Future, of which the author is CEO, worked with the ILTA on the report. Here are 10 observances that might be surprising from our survey:
• New entrants—different but the same? A significant majority (76.7 percent) of respondents expect that technology companies will increasingly enter the legal industry, using disruptive innovations to provide direct legal service delivery. However, only 31.7 percent of respondents said they think this will result in the bulk of legal services being commoditized and highly automated, with only a small number of firms providing premium-priced advisory services.
• Crowdsourcing judgments—opportunity deferred. Citizen engagement and digital democracy are expected by many to become central features of society over the next decade. However, only 26.6 percent of respondents said they think crowdsourced decision-making could be deployed in the courtroom with a broader stakeholder community voting for the outcome of a case.
• Education—ivory towers or digital oasis? Despite the growing prominence and cost savings offered by massively open online courses, only 14.3 percent of survey respondents predict a declining relevance of law school education.
• Big data, low differentiation. Despite rising volumes of business information being identified as a critical “client-facing” challenge for law firms, only 29.8 percent of those surveyed thought the ability to manage big data would be a competitive differentiator.
• Regulatory barriers to technology. While regulatory issues are often cited as a perceived barrier to technology adoption, only 21.8 percent of respondents see them being a genuine hurdle.
• Artificial intelligence. While artificial intelligence is penetrating many sectors, only 26.8 percent of respondents said they thought legal cases will increasingly be argued by artificial intelligence lawyers with decisions taken by AI judges.
• Robot staff—a growing reality? Robotic deployment in business is becoming increasingly widespread. Almost half (42.2 percent) of respondents thought we would see pioneers adopting intelligent robots performing tasks at human level and making independent decisions.
• Robot lawyers—heresy or here before we know it? Human lawyers are here to stay, at least for now. Just 21.8 percent of respondents expect to see iCyborg lawyers with both biological and artificial parts, using noninvasive or invasive brain-computer interfaces.
• Brain uploading. The dominant majority (71.9 percent) of people surveyed said they believe it will take a decade or more before we are uploading the contents of our brains to the Web.
• Outsourcing. Given the pace of technological advancement and the need to respond to shortening business cycles, the outsourcing of IT development (11.5 percent) and enhancing vendor management capabilities (12.9 percent) were given a very low ranking on the priority list for IT management.
Rohit Talwar is CEO of Fast Future, based in London.
This article first appeared in Law Technology News, a Legal affiliate based in New York. •