Another year down, another year where the entire legal profession hasn’t been replaced by robots. Strike that one in the win column, I’d say.
Still, even if your firm’s newest associate isn’t named HAL, there are more than enough technological innovations in recent years to make you feel like you’re practicing law in the future. And according to attorneys and tech experts Legaltech News has spoken with, those advancements will only continue as automation, artificial intelligence, and other new pieces of tech become second nature in many law firms and legal departments.
Below is the third of our three part series on 2019 in legal technology, predicting what to watch out for this coming year. Below is our experts’ full thoughts, organized by last name alphabetical order.
New Technologies Predictions
Alex Babin, Zero: “Email will finally catch up to other workflow systems to make lawyers more productive and profitable thanks to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). By harnessing machine learning and natural language processing technology, critical information that exists inside of every email will be analyzed to help prioritize what really matters, and automate administrative tasks like filing and time tracking. For example, mobile devices will automatically capture email interactions with clients—recovering billable time that used to be lost. The device’s accelerometer will even detect when you’re working or paused. Manual time-entry will go the way of the fax document.”
Andrew Baker, HBR Consulting: “In the coming year, as technology efforts mature and data becomes more core to industry efforts, we will see a pivot from generalized solutions aimed at supporting the entire legal organization to targeted solutions designed to support specific practice needs. For example, there will be more ad hoc data science work that leverages code written in Python or R to draw insights into specific problems, such as litigation-specific issues, real estate-related questions, and beyond.”
Jodie Baker, Australian Legal Technology Association: “There will be a fundamental shift in the way legal data analytics is understood and deployed by legal departments as in-house teams evolve beyond narrowly defined spend analysis. The surging popularity of legal operations—along with a continued focus on Big Data—will lead company leaders to demand more transparency and visibility on their legal team’s capacity, capability, cost… and return. In 2019, data will inform a better understanding of workload, seasonality, cyclicality, turnaround metrics, client demands, work composition, resourcing and more. This will drive interesting shifts in legal department decisions about legal tech purchases, procurement, automation and risk management.”
Thomas Baker, Canon U.S.A.: “The business of law is in the midst of an evolutionary crossroads where the ability to adapt to a changing environment will be fundamental to success and in some cases, basic survival. Client relationships that had typically spanned years are now transforming into information empowered, pivot-ready clients ready to shift to new outside-counsel if their demands for transparency, agility, speed of response, alternative billing or security can’t be satisfied. Cyber-threats compound the problem as threat actors get better organized, motivated, and worst of all, empowered with tools and tactics that outpace defenses on a daily basis. The tide-swell of changes compound and can overwhelm even the most capable firms. Survivors will be the firms who take a proactive approach; recognizing the enormity and building an adaptation strategy that leverages the experience and expertise of trusted, ‘inner-circle’ partnerships and vendors who have a vested interest in the vitality of the firm.”
Arup Das, Alphaserve Technologies: “Innovation is no longer just a buzzword in legal technology; it will continue growing as a functional area that firms prioritize. While some are creating dedicated innovation departments, investing in a focused, in-house team is a complex endeavor. In 2019, we predict the movement toward a more hybrid approach to innovation. The experienced talent required to fill critical rolls will remain in short supply but is necessary to develop programs that address each firm’s unique needs. As such, we anticipate a combination of in-house resources paired with outside experts or in some cases firms outsourcing their innovation initiatives entirely.”
David Horrigan, Relativity: “In a December 2018 Relativity-Law.com webinar survey, 80 percent of respondents agreed that lawyers’ lack of technology competence was a problem for the profession. Thus, it doesn’t take much prognosticating skill to predict that the technical competence of legal teams will be an important issue in 2019. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that, by the end of 2019, we’ll have 40 U.S. states with ethics opinions or rules on attorneys’ duty of technical competence.”
Michele Lange, Workstorm: “The next era of communication is upon us—social, mobile, virtual, video. Today’s legal professionals demand tools that augment productivity and support the ability to work in the office, across the street or around the world. 2019 will be the year where law firms and legal departments embrace collaboration technology. With messaging, email integration, video conferencing, document management, and screen sharing, collaboration platforms are the future of how legal professionals conduct business. Platforms specific to the legal industry make this technology no longer a nice-to-have, but rather an essential tool to propel client objectives and drive operational efficiencies.”
Daniel Lewis, Ravel Law: “2019 will be the year of litigation analytics. Adoption of analytics that improve legal research and strategy will accelerate, with an increasing gap in success between those who use analytics and those who don’t. It will also be a volatile year for venture- and private equity-backed legal tech: There will be some major fundraises (one growing sector to watch is contract analytics) as well as some significant failures of venture- / PE-funded startups.”
Paul Mankoo, Inventus: “Is it likely we will see the first legal tech or at least legal support services IPO? The big sword hanging over all economies and markets is the looming debt crisis and inevitable downturn after an unprecedented bull run. The consolidation wave in legal tech focused primarily on e-discovery has been driven by the availability of cheap debt. Expect that to change and for companies look for alternative exits with one of the large platform providers to be first to jump in.”
John McNelis, Fenwick & West: “Autonomous cars are currently being tested on California’s roads—what laws or litigation is expected to shape the direction and adoption of driverless cars? Autonomous vehicles continue to be tested in California, Waymo vehicles are a fixture on Silicon Valley roads and on December 5, Waymo started the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in Arizona. While the technology is progressing, the legal structure around autonomous vehicles is still in flux. A few of the issues where legal questions remain and will in 2019 include cybersecurity and privacy. Outstanding issues related to the cybersecurity requirements of the vehicles include identifying the necessary requirements to prevent the hacking of an autonomous vehicle, both remotely and from a passenger.”
Rick Merrill, Gavelytics: “Attorneys are increasingly realizing that legal analytics—and specifically, judicial analytics—can really super-charge a litigation strategy. Very soon, no Am Law 100 litigation department in the country will dare send an attorney into the courtroom without actionable intel on the presiding judge.”
Chelsea Mikula Tomko, Tucker Ellis: “In 2019, lawyers in all practice areas need to familiarize themselves with artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies to remain relevant. These technologies will be used regularly in corporate transactions and real estate, construction, supply chain, health care, and intellectual property matters. Clients will begin expecting firms to use artificial intelligence to cut down on overhead and spend to make legal services more efficient and affordable—it will be the new fixed fee discussion.”
Jennifer Richter, Akin Gump: “The FAA will, at long last, propose a rule for remote identification (and perhaps tracking) of commercial and recreational drones. Expect movement on this front toward the end of May 2019. Once in place, additional rulemakings will be possible to enable expanded UAS operations, such as operations over people, which are currently only authorized by a specific waiver process under 14 CFR Part 107.”
Saffa Sleet, FTI Technology: “As an increasing number of enterprises look to adopt blockchain for applications spanning parts and supply tracking, data storage, cybersecurity, verifying devices, enabling secure communications and more, in-house legal teams must prepare for the data governance and compliance implications of its use. The primary concern from an IG perspective is that blockchain technology will inherently create an explosion in corporate data with no retention schedule. Counsel that begin thinking about it today will be in a much better position to build sustainable programs around blockchain data; and potentially even learn ways to leverage the technology to strengthen compliance and governance efforts.”
Dan Tacone, Intapp: “IDC recently predicted that by 2022, 60 percent of global GDP will be digitized. If this is going to be achieved, enterprises’ digital innovation capabilities must be transformed. This provides a huge opportunity for technology providers to create capabilities that are adapted for industry-specific needs. While there has been a trend towards vertical ‘purpose-built’ solutions for a while, in 2019, we’ll see more of them entering the market and more demand among law firms. Over the course of the next year, we’ll see more innovation come into play that solves the specialized requirements of the professional services industries—including legal—in a way that has never been available from traditional horizontal technology providers.”
Kristin Tyler, Lawclerk: “According to a recent report by Cushman Wakefield, millennials now make up the largest generational group of attorneys in the U.S. and are poised to bring about unprecedented change. In 2019, we will see the influence of millennials attorneys further accelerate the adoption of technology and create a renewed willingness to integrate new models like freelance lawyers into the workplace—serving as bellwethers of disruption in a traditionally static legal industry.”