As discussed in the first part of this article, there have been two waves of technological change that have impacted the legal industry. (The first wave focused on changing How lawyers perform certain tasks or activities they have always done, while the second wave was largely targeting Who was working in the law.) These first two waves mostly leveraged technology to replace high-volume, repetitive tasks, the types of tasks often performed by lower-paid workers in legal services—in many cases, the workflows in legal services that were least efficient, and hence most in need of optimization. This type of change, focused on optimization and efficiency, does not necessarily require technology. It often starts with business process optimization, but it is typically accelerated by leveraging technology.
Excitingly, with advances in artificial intelligence, particularly in machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), we are now in a third wave of legal technology. In this wave, technology is poised to help lawyers create new sources of value by changing What lawyers do. Much like any industry facing competitive pressure in a global economy, the legal profession is in need of transformation. It needs to take advantage of opportunities that new technology presents and keep up with client demands.