Legal Technology in 2017

What will innovation and technology bring to the table for the legal industry in 2017? As an attorney, what new or existing trends should you keep an attentive ear and keen eye out for in order to assure relevancy, adhere to the endlessly dynamic client need, and maximize your overall effectiveness during the litigation process?

Here is the direction we see technology taking the legal industry in 2017, the impact it might have on you, as well as what you need to do to take action. 

Beep Beep Boop – The Increased Hiring of “Robot Lawyers” – In May of 2016, Baker & Hostetler, one of the nation’s largest law firms, welcomed an attorney by the name of Ross to their staff.  This hiring was unique in the fact that Ross is not what one would consider a typical attorney.  Ross is an artificially intelligent attorney…yes, that’s right, a robot.  Ross is a “Robot Lawyer”, the first of his kind in fact.  Ross was hired to assist various teams with legal research.  His job entails monitoring law around the clock and notifying the firm of any changes that might affect cases.  When a lawyer has a question, they ask Ross.  Ross researches the law, gathers evidence, and returns all pertinent information pertaining to the subject manner.  The most fascinating thing though is, because Ross is built off of cognitive computing and natural language processing, he is constantly learning and retaining information like a human does, and his results get better each time.

What does this mean for the legal industry and what impact will this have on attorneys?  With the first robot lawyer successfully employed, 2017 will begin to see more of these robots entering the workforce.  Larger law firms, especially firms with extra money to spend, will begin investing in artificially intelligent personnel.  For attorneys, this is a good thing.  There is no need to worry about your job being replaced by machines; we feel the robot lawyer will make things much easier for you.  Instead of spending hours researching legal matters, the cognitive computing aspect of the robot lawyer can perform this task in one-third of the time, freeing you up to take on more cases and bring in more money.  In addition, the information you receive will most likely be more accurate and more complete than what the human eye can offer, allowing you to be better prepared and more informed when you go to argue a case.

The Sky Will Be the Limit with Increased Cloud Collaboration –  We believe that 2017 will bring about an increased usage of cloud collaboration software and working from home will become a “virtual” reality.  Although the legal industry will continue to grow in numbers, law firms will cut back on purchasing physical office space and instead look to move their workforce to a more virtual environment. 

What does this mean for the legal industry and what impact will this have on attorneys?  Over the years, cloud collaboration software has drastically improved, allowing legal professionals the freedom to work from wherever they have a computer and internet connection.  We believe the legal industry will see a more globalized workforce and law firms will be able to save time, money, and have a positive impact on the environment.  For lawyers, this means no more traveling to and from depositions, or other litigation events.  Tools like video conferencing, realtime streaming, electronic exhibits, and non-discoverable chat will allow you to have a strong presence during these types of events without physically having to be there.  Because of the flexibility cloud-based technology offers, in 2017 lawyers will be able to have not only a successful career, but regain a more even work-life balance.           

Cybersecurity Will Be More Important Than Ever
–  With a remote, virtual workforce growing in numbers throughout the year, we will begin to see a major upswing in online document storage.  Not only does this include excel spreadsheets and word documents, it means that millions, if not billions of pages of sensitive and confidential, client data or law firm documentation will be stored online as well.  Because of this, the focus on cybersecurity will be more vital than ever.    

What does this mean for the legal industry and what impact will this have on attorneys?  The secure storage of legal documentation has always been a key focus and concern of law firms, but in 2017 we believe we will see a major increase in spend by the legal industry when it comes to developing new methods for online security and the strengthening of current infrastructure.  Billions of dollars are lost each year when it comes to cyber-attacks; that is why in 2017 we believe we will see law firms develop and implement proactive strategies for dealing and preventing these types of breaches.  From issuing firm-exclusive devices, such as computers and tablets complete with fingerprint technology accessible to one specific user, to developing a security conscious culture, law firms will be cracking down.  As an attorney, expect to attend mandatory meetings, or continuing education classes on the importance of cybersecurity and measures you can take as an individual.  Expect to sign agreements and be bound by a new set of regulations when it comes to the documents you share and how you share them.  Yes, a virtual workforce may provide you with greater flexibility and freedom, but the infrastructure and guidelines must first be in place to allow you to do so.                             

Client Demand Will Force Major Change in the Delivery of Services –  As with any industry, the rapidly transforming and constantly evolving need of the modern day client will bring forth a major change during 2017, especially when it comes to the delivery of services.  Technology has changed the world around us at an alarming rate, and the legal industry is no exception.  With so many do-it-yourself, online, legal solutions popping up throughout the marketplace, legal professionals will be forced to rethink the methods in which they currently provide services to their clients.  

What does this mean for the legal industry and what impact will this have on attorneys?  For the legal industry this means change, and in an industry known for being slow to adapt, this means a whole new way of doing business.  In order to stay competitive, law firms must stay ahead of the game, they must keep an eye on what their competition is doing around them, whether it be opposing firms, or the do-it-yourself solutions mentioned above.  In 2017 we believe law firms will invest in software or bring on more analytical personnel whose key job will be to evaluate competition, technology, and offer advice and strategies on how to differentiate themselves to the clientele of today.  In the upcoming year the average attorney will begin to see that in order to stay competitive, they will need to get out there and start branding themselves.  Expect more attorneys reaching out through social media to engage with their clients; blogging and recording podcasts that cover topics that focus on their expertise or the services their firm offers.

Although we don’t guarantee the level of impact any of the above mentioned items will have on the legal industry during 2017, we know they are all topics to be on the lookout for.  Innovation is constantly taking place every minute, every day; the legal industry is being reinvented as we speak.  Do you want to sit by idly, proceed with caution, and risk getting bulldozed by forward thinkers, or do you want to take a chance, and be a true competitive leader in an industry that is presently redefining the way law is practiced?  2017 will be a year of change in the legal industry – take our word for it!