There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there about legal technology that can cause law firms to stall important decisions regarding vendor partner selection or upgrading their systems. I’d like to debunk some common myths about legal tech—from robots replacing lawyers to addressing legal tech integrations—and provide some practical tips your firm can use today.
Myth #1: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace lawyers
Not true. AI is advancing rapidly as a leading focus of innovation and exploration, but its practical application in most workflows within a law firm currently resides in task automation, not in replacing a thinking and discerning legal professional. In other words, the primary contribution of intelligent automation of manual and repetitive aspects of common workflows is boosting the efficiency of human employees, not their outright replacement. As CTO of Assembly Legal, I have seen great strides from customers leveraging intelligence automation to ensure their staff have more time to engage in relationship building, customer contact, and other instructional activities.
As this technology continues to advance, we will see AI become more of a trusted advisor to legal professionals, supplying real-time insights, pattern recognition, and scoring/ranking of data, ultimately allowing your employees to make more data-driven, metric-supported, and consistently interpreted decisions more rapidly. For example, a properly trained AI model will allow firms a fast, reliable mechanism to score incoming intakes based on the factors it values most. The AI can weigh an intake, measuring its predicted time to close, range of predicted close value, historic interactions with the same parties, and even impact on causes or public issues relevant to the firm and its community. Rather than employees doing hours of research and comparison, looking for keywords or key conditions, we will train an AI model to simply evaluate intakes against the target and provide a result set sorted in the order that matches your “rules” for importance. That way, you are always pursuing the cases most important to the firm, based on the way you run your firm and the outcomes that matter.
Tip: Use intelligent automation to help you make informed decisions that are in your and your clients’ best interest. Automate the things that will save time without sacrificing client experience and without sacrificing control of human-level decisions.
Myth #2: All data security is created equal
This is a common misconception about cloud technology in general, and in our industry specifically. We should always remember that a law firm’s data is its most valuable asset, and as such needs to be protected and secured with measures and protocols commensurate with its value and importance. Things like privacy, protection, access control, recoverability, and high availability are foundational pillars in data security, and these have to be designed into a system from the start, not added on after the system is done.
Being responsible for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for legal firms, as I am, I know that focusing on data protection is the first order of business, protecting all avenues, being diligent on least access, never compromising on foundational principles—and never as an afterthought. As a technology leader, I have always insisted that our teams build and design with a security-first mindset. It is important to identify how we will protect the data behind every feature we build, ensuring that those who need access will always have it and those who shouldn’t have access never do. We have all seen inexperienced technology providers migrating the same packages that existed on a desktop to the cloud, with the primary security design rooted in trusting the good intentions of the public at large. Obviously, that will not end well and is not a valid platform to contain such a valuable asset as your business’ data and livelihood.
When pushed on why I am so adamant about these principles, I generally reply, “I am in technology; I don’t trust anyone.” While meant as a joke, there is a harsh truth contained within. Prior to joining Assembly Legal, I spent the vast majority of my career in the healthcare and financial sectors. I learned in that time how important it is to protect data with reverence and unwavering vigor—for the sake of your firm, your customers, your customer’s sensitive information—and to uphold the principles of being a trusted partner.
Tip: When evaluating legal technology vendors, at minimum, you should always ask about:
- Physical access rules: Where is my data and who can gain access to the “server?”
- Logical access protocols: Who has access to connect to and read your data, when and why?
- High availability deployments: Is it always “up” since that ensures protections are active?
- Backup retention: How do I recover from disaster and make sure my data is available to those who need it?
Myth #3: The more integrations available, the better the legal tech
The legal tech space is active with consolidation and acquisition, all focused on delivering a more complete tech stack. While it is exciting to have access to new features, it may not always present the most seamless workflow as we’d hoped. There’s a considerable difference between an interface and an integration of two systems.
Providing an interface is a quick and easy way to allow users to launch other workflows from other products, even within the same software family. This is generally the low-hanging fruit way to merge a newly acquired product into an existing software suite. Users are able to launch the “add-on” product from a button or event, sometimes without logging in again, to push data values into the other product and execute its core task. The look-and-feel of the two products is rarely the same, but the data is never persisted into a single model or result. Interfaces are merely shortcuts between otherwise separate software apps. In the legal world, a great example of this is how many intake systems interact with case management systems, by pushing copies of the records back and forth, each managing their own.
On the other hand, an integration strategy allows two or more point solutions to be injected seamlessly into the core products workflows, at the time when they are useful to the user, without leaving the core product. A great way to think about this is how a system may send a text message or an email directly from its own workflow without requiring a “jump” to a new product. While that is a simple use case, a fully integrated point solution will act the same, delivering the value of their software, into the visual workflow of the core product. Ideally, users will feel like they are in one system the entire time, enjoying the fruits of all the integrated systems, potentially without even knowing their names.
Tip: To check if systems are fully integrated, ask questions surrounding user logins and data concurrency. Do I have to have a different username and password in the other system? If I change the file name in one, does it update the other?
When it comes to running a law firm, AI, data security, and integrations aren’t usually top of mind. Yet when considering new systems, persistent myths about them can make the decision to move forward or stay put a daunting one. It doesn’t have to be. Armed with a basic understanding of how these technologies do and don’t work and the right questions to ask your tech providers, you’ll see change is less scary than the myths make it seem.
About the Author
As Chief Technology Officer of Assembly Software, Jim Garrett has spent 25 years in software development, focusing on SaaS for the past eight years. Jim believes in meeting the ever-changing needs and modern demands of customers by focusing on optimization of design and development processes for innovation. Holding an MBA from Southern Methodist University along with multiple technical certifications, Jim offers his expertise as a business leader on best practices for software modernization.