New technologies are disrupting the traditionally conservative legal sector
The legal sector has earned a reputation for being slow to adapt to the pace of change. However, law firms can no longer afford to resist technological advances – which have the potential both to attract clients and improve the working lives of their employees. From digitising documents to employing robots, the legal sector has a lot to gain from embracing disruptive technologies. Let’s take a look at 10 of the ways tech is changing the law right now.
1) Digital documents
Lawyers are renowned for their reliance upon the humble pen and paper. However, creating hard copies of documents is not only extremely environmentally wasteful, it is also unproductive as employees are required to flick through reams of potentially irrelevant information to find the material they need. Digitising documents and storing them via the cloud not only gives lawyers access to information in a few simple clicks, it also enables remote document access via mobile phone and tablet devices. In 2015, multinational law firm CMS designed their new London headquarters around technology based working practices. They installed Microsoft Surface technology, endowing digital documents with the flexibility and intuitive interface of a pen and paper. This enables legal teams to share screens and edit documents in real time, encouraging collaboration.
2) Data processing
Data is a huge resource for legal firms. It is possible to think of each legal organisation as a data warehouse, which holds a wealth of information on clients, behaviours and case outcomes. Maximising the collection and processing of this data is therefore an ideal way for law firms to identify new areas of business and to tailor their services to specific clients. Data analysis technology makes it possible to quickly recognise patterns and relationships that a human analyst would miss. The considerable potential for the global legal analytics market is clear in its projected growth from $450m in 2017 to around $1.9bn in 2022.
Chatbots provide an ideal opportunity for legal firms to attract customers online. When hosted on a website, they offer Q&A facilities to potential clients, allowing them to make enquiries about services and better understand their specific legal needs. Artificially intelligent chatbots free up human operators and provide potential clients with round the clock customer service. In addition to advising and screening clients at law firms, chatbots have also been used as a kind of DIY legal service. The chatbot DoNotPay was launched to help members of the public fight parking tickets. It now also offers refunds to consumers on fluctuating flight and hotel prices, travel delays and lost luggage. The free and secure service makes simple legal services available to the masses, signifying a considerable threat to traditional firms.
4) Flexible working
The growing use of technology in the workplace is changing the way that legal professionals work. The expansion of the on demand economy, combined with a generational move towards freelance and portfolio based careers, has resulted in lawyers working more flexibly. A new legal service business model is based around freelance work, offering both lawyers and their clients greater autonomy over how, when and where they work. One such organisation, Lawyers on Demand, was founded in 2007 in a pioneering move that paved the way for the rest of the market. Offering clients and legal professionals more choice is the future of a sector with a projected rise in non traditional service providers over the next few years.
5) Predictive analytics
Predictive analytics has a growing role in the legal sector in the identification of patterns in data to predict future outcomes. This is particularly relevant for the way that lawyers work on cases. Premonition is a US company that was founded in 2014 to predict the outcomes of court cases based on criteria such as the courthouse it is held in, the presiding judge, and the type of case in question. This kind of tool can help lawyers to decide whether or not a client is likely to win their case, and thus if it is worth taking it to court at all. In 2016 the start-up firm Juristat launched Etro – a tool which analyses the language of a patent application and thereby predicts its outcome. This gives patent applicants greater understanding of how the wording of their applications will affect their success.
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