It has taken a long time for technology and innovation to become available in the legal industry. Apparently, this notoriously static industry has resisted the prospect of (technological!) Significant technological change for years.
Admittedly, this nervousness is understandable. The attorney’s MO is designed to provide accurate, valuable, and tailored legal advice. Legal technology – and the concept of legal automation in particular – does not fit exactly into this dynamic.
The reality, however, is simple: Technological innovation and development is much greater than in the legal industry. It will eventually leave Luddites by the wayside. Competitors who seize their opportunities and are ready to face its hurdles will circle the COVID-19 corner with a huge commercial advantage.
But what will that change look like in 2021? Here are three predictions to look out for …
Investment. Investment. investment.
The worst-kept secret that law firms would like to keep under wraps is that COVID-19 wasn’t the apocalyptic event it was for many other industries. In fact, many companies experienced real growth and prosperity. The flow-on effect is that the legal industry is surprisingly well positioned to take a real push into legal technology investments. For the first time, we should see the industry taking real risks regarding legal technology investments in ways we have not seen before.
Does this mean companies will suddenly dive into the deep? Unlikely. There is still some caution about what could humbly be described as “unpredictable” in 2020.
However, companies have drawn real confidence in the effective use of technology to facilitate both virtual customer interaction and court engagement. Both were forced upon companies by the pandemic, but the results were only encouraging. The industry has taken the full burden of remote working and is fine. This is a good sign for legal technology manufacturers who will find it much easier to convince their buyers of the suitability and interactivity of their products.
As a result, despite the end of the world that 2020 sometimes promised to offer, a significant surge in legal technology investment can be expected from businesses large and small. Law firms will have learned that a strong commitment to digital systems makes sense in a post-COVID world. Also expect an exponential increase in venture capital investments. 2021 should be the year when demand starts to meet supply.
The rise of the “Lawbot”.
We’ve heard this for a while. At the beginning of 2019, the consulting firm Gartner predicted that by 2023 “lawbots” (essentially virtual paralegals operated by artificial intelligence) would process a quarter of internal legal inquiries. That now seems like a conservative estimate. Expect this product to become even more productive in 2021.
Lawbots are low risk, medium reward products. They are remarkably easy to develop from a technical point of view. A law firm with an effective in-house legal department could develop one of their own, but could just as easily get one. But perhaps most importantly, these products provide law firms with a good introduction to legal technology. They can be tested internally to remove the kinks before using them on clients. Artificial intelligence is developing rapidly in this regard and properly developed bots learn themselves – the more they are used, the better they can respond to queries and requests. They also require minimal maintenance.
While old-school lawyers resist the idea of automated conversations invading their workspace, companies should recognize the importance of smart at least some of these elements of their business – especially when much of their customer service is done remotely , self-learning AI.
Document automation is finally getting sexy.
Likewise, we’ve heard for forever and for a day that every contract attorney will be working on the street as soon as the upcoming automation of the documents arrives. That won’t quite happen, but 2021 should be the year when this concept finally becomes a reality and becomes a tool to assist contract lawyers. Often viewed as the chilly, uncomfortable strand of legal innovation, it is now on the verge of delivering real value to businesses.
The first thing you will have to do is with high volume, low complexity documents such as: B. Nondisclosure Agreements. The creation and creation of these documents can and should be almost completely automated. But from there it will be interesting to see how the market develops. There is real leeway for document automation to take on a collaborative element. We will soon see that the end of a contract is agreed in a static file. Parties on both sides can properly collaborate on a single document at the same time using cloud-based technology. This is maybe a little more exciting than running 40 NDAs on your legal software.
These are predictions, of course. The legal industry may not have suffered as others have suffered amid this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t at least a little tired of how business will be done in the future. If anything, this fatigue should encourage companies to move forward on a technical level and move away from a very conservative past. If companies have learned anything by 2020, it should be that ultimately it doesn’t matter whether they are looking for technology or not – they will find it at some point.