In this article, we list the 15 top legal technology trends you need to know.
From the beginning of 2020 and accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, law firms and the judiciary were forced to adapt to new technology to run the legal system remotely. There are many benefits to this, and below is a list of the 15 top legal technology trends you need to know.
Global research and advisory company Gartner predicts that by 2024, legal departments would have automated 50% of their legal work relating to major commercial transactions.
This is why it is worth dedicating time to learning about legal technology trends. Not only as a means to improve efficiency but also to make your practice adaptable to working remotely in case you cannot attend your office.
Author: Millicent Nhepera, Law Graduate (LLB, LLM), located in Australia.
1. Data security
More than most other professions, lawyers are entrusted with confidential and sensitive information that they are mandated by law to keep confidential. Therefore data security is an important starting point.
One drawback of legal technology is that it potentially exposes the firm to cybersecurity breaches. Lawyers can be targets of cyber-attacks by hackers, as it is well known that they keep sensitive information, which can be valuable to someone with ill-intent. Therefore the starting point of any consideration to acquire legal technology is to consider whether it comes with the requisite amount of data security required by lawyers. Regardless of the size or structure of the firm, data security is a very important consideration.
The ATO has an interesting article on data leaks in law, with the example of the Panama Papers security breach, which you can read here. This example shows how badly things can go if data is leaked from your firm. Such breaches affect the firm and its reputation, also affect clients, and sometimes this is on a very personal level.
To mitigate this risk, firms need to train staff on how to avoid data security risks. This is more important now when we often have staff working remotely. So implementing a data security policy is important to ensure that staff know how to keep data secure. Training staff on how not to expose themselves to phishing scams through suspicious email links, and keeping their passwords secure is very important.
It is also important to vet third-party service providers on their privacy policies to ensure that your information is safe. On a larger scale, firms should have competent IT departments and staff that can implement data encryption, anti-virus checks, and penetration testing to ensure that the system is secure.
2. Cloud-based databases
This is another legal technology trend that has become even more important in the lock-down or work-from-home era that we are currently living in.
Cloud-based databases work by storing data using off-premises I.T services, instead of an on-site data storage facility.
Meaning that the data can be accessed from anywhere. The data includes legal documents, financial records, and client information amongst other things. Lawyers will be able to access all the information remotely that they access at work.
This is very important for business continuity, as lawyers can continue working remotely if they are unable to attend an office. So cloud-based databases are an important way to make your firm flexible and adaptable in an unpredictable global climate.
3. Legal chatbots
Legal chatbots are a legal technology trend that uses artificial intelligence to function. Chatbots can be used as a customer service element for law firms. They are pre-programmed with data that enables them to read and respond to clients via a live chat on a website. They can answer questions based on what is asked. They are also able to gather and store information about the client, which a lawyer can then use to assess the needs of the client or potential client, and get back to them
Chatbots are good because they improve customer experience by attending to clients or potential clients immediately, instead of them having to wait hours or days to receive a response to their question. It also helps to free up human resources by allowing lawyers to focus on other tasks.
4. Document review software
Artificial intelligence software is being used in the legal industry to conduct document reviews. The software works by conducting data analysis and review of documents in a firm’s database, including correspondence, client file documentation, and communication spanning years.
The advantage of this is that legal research can be done much faster through this software, and the range of information. It can sift through irrelevant information much faster. This will then free up human resources to work on tasks that document review software cannot do.
5. Electronic billing
Electronic billing or e-billing refers to the process of automating the billing process in law firms. This is done by using software that does the review and approval of invoices. Invoices are then presented to clients electronically, rather than in the post. E-billing software in the legal industry is programmed to capture billing details that are required in the industry, including timelines, tasks, activities, and expenses.
This technology is beneficial to both small firms and big legal departments. It decreases the time lawyers need to spend on the administration required in the billing process, to focus on other tasks This also reduces human error and improves efficiency.
It also significantly reduces the amount of paperwork that lawyers complete. A further added advantage is that e-billing software can help to collect key metrics, valuable data, and analytics for firms and legal departments. Trends, costs, and rates comparisons, for example, provided by e-billing software can provide good insight.
6. E-discovery tools
E-discovery (electronic discovery) tools are used in legal practice to automate the discovery stage of a civil litigation matter. This process involves collecting, processing, and sorting through large databases of electronically stored materials.
The goal is to automate the organisation of data, which ensures that the discovery process of a matter is both accurate and efficient. Automating this process means that larger amounts of information can be analysed in shorter periods of time to benefit legal teams.
7. Legal conferencing software
Without a doubt, one of the most significant legal technology trends of the past year has been legal conferencing software. We have adapted to using conferring software for daily activities within legal practice. This includes internal team meetings, meetings with clients, and even “e-court” appearances, with the judiciary also adapting to the “new normal.”
Together with cloud-based databases, legal conferencing software is an essential part of creating business continuity within a firm. It is important to be able to have facilities that allow you to adapt to working outside of the office at a moment’s notice.
Documents that can be automated include letters, pleadings, agreements and other legal documents. Document automation helps to reduce inefficiencies caused by human error, by setting a standardised format through the templates used to form the documents. It also helps to make documents in the legal workspace more accessible and organised. These may be particularly useful for in-house teams that work with many different areas of an organisation, where a standard form as a starting point would be very useful and time-saving.
8. Documentation automation technology
Document automation technology enables lawyers to increase efficiencies by automating process-driven tasks and documents.
Platforms such as Contract Express and Drafting Assistant help lawyers to cut down precious time spent on proof-reading and generating standard legal documents. This enhances the value a legal professional is able to offer their client, as their time is spent on the specifics of their client’s legal matter, rather than generating standard documentation which offers little benefit to support their client.
9. Legal transcription technology
Legal transcription technology focuses on the notetaking elements of being a lawyer. The work of a lawyer is, to a large extent, filled with conversations, meetings, and conferences that are important, sensitive, and need to be documented. The process of legal transcription involves typing any legal proceeding from audio/spoken word into a written document.
Transcription can be done by outsourcing the services to a third-party company, that is provided with an audio recording that they then turn into a written document. Several companies in Australia offer this service. It is important to do your due diligence to ensure that you are using a credible third-party company, as they would be dealing with confidential information.
Technology has also advanced with the creation of speech recognition software. This software “listens” to audio and then transcribes it into a written document. Such technology is also particularly useful where it is not possible to meet in person, and the transcription is done straight from the video conferencing software, while the meeting is in progress. This legal transcription software provides a fast turnaround for transcripts.
10. Online dispute resolution
Part of the appeal of dispute resolution generally, compared to litigation, is that it is much faster. Participating in online dispute resolution only makes that process faster. Online dispute resolution can be the use of web-based technology to conduct dispute resolution. The process may include a third party who acts as a facilitator of the dispute resolution. Or, the online dispute resolution software may take the role of the facilitator, through the use of artificial intelligence. This removes the necessity for human resources in the process.
This addresses the issue of distance and eliminates all the drawbacks associated with travel, such as cost, scheduling and delays.
11. Social media
By far, social media is likely the most contentious legal technology trend on this list. It is likely because one of the most important duties lawyers owe to clients is confidentiality, and social media is mostly based on (over) sharing information. Nonetheless, this is one of the most significant trends in legal technology and must be discussed. Social media will be dealt with in three parts.
Social media and marketing
Firstly, social media is a very important medium of advertising. In a lot of ways, law firms that advertise on social media, and have a presence therein are likely to garner a good amount of clientele from there. Therefore progressive law firms can use this to their advantage, understanding that people spend a large amount of time on social media.
Social media marketing has several advantages. Firms can reach a wider audience than other forms of marketing. You can target specific demographics by age, gender, and even lifestyle. Social media is low-cost for marketing and free in some cases. Which makes it an excellent medium for reaching potential clientele.
That said, how social media is used by a law firm needs to be very well managed. To reiterate the point on confidentiality. Social media sites are all third-party platforms, where there is no guarantee that information on it is 100% secure. So no sensitive business should be carried on social media, to not identify clients or give away sensitive information.
Social media and employees
Nowadays, employees are a representation of their employer, because oftentimes, employees will have the names of their employer displayed on their personal profiles. Such profiles are good for creating professional connections and sharing ideas that could be very beneficial for employee growth and development.
However, one of the most important things to implement is social media policies to manage how your employees utilise social media as representatives of your firm. Negative publicity can be detrimental to a firm, even if it is through an employee rather than the actions of the firm itself. Conducting training around social media use can also mitigate potential negative effects
Social media and opportunities.
Social media has become a source of livelihood for a lot of people in Australia and around the world. It is worthwhile for law firms to consider creating services targeted specifically to social media influencers, as an emerging and growing industry. This would include brand deal agreements, influencer marketing, and talent management agreements, amongst other things.
It is clear then, that when social media is managed well, it can provide many benefits within the legal industry.
12. Legal Research technology
Legal research technology is also a very important technological advancement for lawyers. Using artificial intelligence capabilities, research databases are acquiring features that will not only make it easier to find the information you are looking for, but also saves a lot of time on the research element of a matter.
The legal research technology will provide search improvements and suggested answers to aid lawyers in their research. New technology allows for some non-legal resources to be found, including internet articles related to the research. This provides greater context for lawyers in their research.
One important feature of legal research technology through the use of artificial intelligence is that it can provide litigation analytics by analysing historical data. Information that can be provided includes things like how long particular types of matters take in court, or how a particular judge may rule on a particular claim, based on analytics.
An example is the new Westlaw Australia.
13. Practice management software
Practice management software is likely the most widely used form of legal technology by firms. It refers to software that is used to manage a firm’s daily operations and workflows. The appeal of this is that all the elements of practice management will be found in one place. Practice management software includes case management, task management, time and billing tracking, accounting, calendar, and scheduling, amongst other things, all in one place.
This software streamlines the practice’s operations, and can save time and improve efficiency through its implementations. So whether you have a large, small, established, or new firm, practice management software would be beneficial. There are plenty of options out there for practice management software, so it is important to look for one based on your individual needs.
Here is a good comparison of some practice management software
14. Document sharing software
Secure file sharing is another important legal technology trend. Its importance has been highlighted in the last year or so, while lawyers have been working from home. Documents are a very important part of legal practice, and a vast majority of them are sensitive. These need to be shared with clients or colleagues who are working from different places, for review, signing or collaboration.
Documents sharing software provides a safe way to share documents that carry confidential information. Most have added features that allow electronic signatures for convenience and some allow you to work collaboratively on the document with colleagues. All of which much needed features while working remotely.
15. Virtual Offices
It is becoming much more prevalent to find law firms that are virtual, with no brick and mortar premises that can be attended by clients. This is allowed by the legal technology advancements discussed here.
Client meetings can be conducted via video conferencing, colleagues can collaborate remotely through document sharing software, billing is electronic, and chatbots as customer service. This is very beneficial for lawyers, as large amounts of overhead costs of paying for an office are saved. For this reason, we are likely to see a growing trend of virtual law firms in future.
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