New technology has significantly shifted from the days when legal services were delivered primarily by attorneys sitting behind huge desks piled with paperwork. Global trends in legal tech, court operations, and regulatory practices continue to affect the daily work of legal professionals.
Amidst all of the coming changes, here are five of the most significant types of technology shifts that could be impactful in the years to come:
#1: Increased reliance on cloud-based technology
When the pandemic forced many legal professionals to work from home, many firms began to see the true significance of implementing cloud-based software. The software that enabled us to survive 2020 was in the cloud, and the software of the future will continue to be in the cloud, states legal tech expert Brian Mauch.
Complete migration to the cloud-based environment can allow for more flexibility in how you access files and how you secure those files. Beyond those benefits, once a law firm has migrated fully, it can truly benefit from all the advantages offered by the cloud. Incorporating the cloud means plugging your firm into a new world of cloud-based applications, files, and email options.
#2: Legal firm task automation
More firms are choosing to streamline support tasks by using technology tools. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that approximately 23% of the work done by attorneys and other legal professionals can be automated by existing technology. The point is not to replace support professionals, but to give them more bandwidth to perform other essential tasks. In many firms, the legal industry remains bogged down by work performed by people that are better handled by automated technology.
Your client intake process, billing and accounting, and case management tasks could all be running on a well-oiled machine that’s customizable to your firm’s needs. Automation can help increase your availability for more engaging tasks, and reduce bottlenecks in client management, from intake to invoice. The rate at which this becomes a reality depends on how many systems are connected to each other and how well the data is set up to pass (securely) from one place to another in order to speed up the process of initiating one task by completing the other.
#3: Integrated eFiling
eFiling has been a long slow innovation when it comes to transforming the practice of law. Although the federal court system moved toward digital documents more than a decade ago, the rest of the industry has been slower to adapt, particularly in large states like California. However, social distancing and quarantine have forever changed the way courts accept legal filings and hear cases, and many more firms have now implemented eFiling software into their processes.
In the coming years, legal professionals can expect eFiling platforms to allow them to do even more with fewer tools. Beyond just linking to the court, providers will connect with other tools that your team uses to streamline tasks and verify data. The manual work will be phased out in exchange for a more connected and collaborative workflow that reduces risk. All while offering add-on services like electronic signatures, service of process, docket syncing, and calendaring.
#4: AI-based legal research options
A decade ago, Westlaw and LexisNexis dominated the online legal research space. However, a growing number of innovative competitors are now taking a bite out of the market, introducing new features and tools that raise the bar for legal research offerings. Expectations of this new market include more than just online access. Many are improving how they mine archives of legal precedents to surface specific documentation to support a legal argument. And the artificial intelligence (AI) component means that they are learning all the time about the types of tasks they are undertaking and getting smarter about locating and assessing relevant documents.
#5: The rise of virtual managed review
Technology has not only changed the way law is practiced, but it has also transformed the discovery process. According to the National Law Review, virtual managed review will become the norm in 2021 and beyond. “Virtual managed review proved to be a viable solution, allowing e-discovery attorneys in different locations to be trained remotely and review documents from the comfort and safety of their own homes.” Though there are some concerns with privacy and data security that are still being addressed, firms should prepare for technology to support the more intricate processes of litigation.
Ensure your firm is prepared for what technology has in store by staying informed about advancements in legal technology so that you can take advantage of all it has to offer. Expect these shifts to affect every part of the process of your firm, from client intake to managing customer feedback.