Having worked in the legal industry for nearly two decades, I’ve seen our industry undergo a number of changes throughout the years. Most recently, as the workforce has become more mobile and more tech-savvy it seems the changes are coming more rapidly than ever before. As a result, law firms and corporate legal departments across the world have been forced to change as well. Where once they could get by with very little investment in the latest legal technology, now choosing and implementing the right software applications is top priority. The only challenge is determining which innovations to bet on.
I recently participated in a panel discussion on this very topic. We examined emerging technologies such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and discussed their impact on the legal industry today and in the future. Some we ruled a flash in the pan, while others we agreed would be here to stay. If your business is sorting through the same puzzle pieces, these are the top five correlated trends you should be watching.
Whether you use an Android or an iPhone, the functionality and performance across today’s mobile devices are all very similar. As the hardware has matured and the rate of device innovation and differentiation has slowed, the focus has shifted to ubiquitous access to data. Mobile browsers were the first step to realizing this access, and today it is achieved through mobile applications (apps). We already use apps every day for social networking, banking, traveling and other personal activities. Over time, highly specialized platform agnostic applications are making inroads into legal. With these apps, professionals will be able to practice law anytime and anywhere they have a data connection, eliminating the need to always be near a desktop and in turn improving client engagement and satisfaction.
Movement To The Cloud
There is no doubt cloud technology has caused major disruption for legal and other industries. At my own organization, we recently saw a record level of adoption and migration from our customers to the cloud, and it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing. The beauty of the technology is in its elasticity. Firms no longer have to build their IT infrastructure to a size to handle peak need, which they don’t need most of the time, and then double that for disaster recovery and business continuity purposes. From a utility perspective they simply pay for what they consume when they need it, which saves not only money but time and resources as well.
As mobility and cloud computing overtake traditional desktop and paper file usage, security is a great concern for law firms and their clients. While currently there is no formal legal industry standard for security of data in the cloud, the good news is that technology in this area is maturing. Governance technology that dictates where and for how long information is stored and by whom it can be accessed will play a very important role in keeping firms protected. The ability to encrypt data both at rest and in motion and enforce multi-factor identification will also be critical for firms as the baseline of legal technology.
There is a staggering amount of data and metadata within a law firm or corporate law department. The amount of relevant data for a client or matter only grows the longer a case or client relationship continues. Add to that the enormous amount of data in court records, research services, and eDiscovery platforms and the ability to manually search or govern these data sets becomes impossible. The advent of analytic search engines help bring order to the data from and Information Governance and search relevance perspective. Machine based software that reviews millions of data points allows for trends to be found which would otherwise be missed by the human eye. This increased efficiency means money saved for both firms and clients, and also adds an incentive for professionals to use systems that also comply with their firm’s information governance policies.
Though still in the early stages, artificial intelligence (AI) promises to push the envelope of current analytic capabilities from purely descriptive to predictive. Some examples include mapping the predispositions of different judges to predict rulings, or understanding the most common tactics used by opposing counsel to prepare defenses. At current time, regulatory law seems to be most amiable to AI because of the prescriptive nature of its statutes but as technology evolves and machines are taught to think more like attorneys, the opportunities will be endless.