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The impact of LawTech on the legal industry

24 Apr 2019

New technologies are permeating industries all over the world. At IDEX, we’re already seeing things like InsurTech and data science make a significant impact on general insurance, but what about the legal industry?

LawTech has been a highly-anticipated trend within the legal industry for many years, yet its emergence into the traditionally cautious legal sector has been somewhat slow going. Could 2019 be the year that more firms adopt new technologies into their everyday practices? And what will that mean for candidates and legal firms?

Discovery and case management

The use of technology in the legal profession dates back decades, with Lexis’ UBIQ terminal paving the way for sophisticated computer-based databases. Then came the personal computer, and with it, applications created specifically for lawyers. Fast forward to the late 1990s and early 2000s and e-discovery applications ushered in increased efficiency for lawyers. This saw a move away from the piles and piles of paper that plagued legal offices, making way for terabytes of data to dominate the discovery and documentation process. Industry software such as Relativity, Symantec and Nuix contribute to the massive e-discovery market, which is projected to reach USD 17.32 billion by 2023. The identification, preservation and collection segments of e-discovery are the fastest growing, with cloud deployment increasingly being adopted thanks to its benefits such as increased storage, scalability, flexibility and security.

Alongside e-discovery platforms, case management software is a mainstay of law firms the world over. Programmes such as AbacusLaw, MyCase and Clio can streamline functions, protect data and make information sorting and sharing simple. Case management software can schedule diaries, organise communication channels and help log time, making them integral components of many legal practices.

These are two early – and essential – examples of LawTech and show the enormous potential for modern technologies to shape and enhance the legal profession into the future.  

AI and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will likely be used by more legal firms in the future, thanks to their ability to carry out routine tasks and search through large volumes of data. Predictive coding is one of the significant practical implementations of AI already in use in some parts of the legal industry. This is a type of review that can assess the relevance of documents for disclosure, using keyword search and iterative computer learning.

One company making use of AI in the legal space is NexLP, which uses text analytics and machine learning to predict litigation and measure workflows. Another is iManage’s Ravn, an AI bot used by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) when investigating corruption allegations at Rolls-Royce. Ravn was used to search through the 30 million documents turned over to the SFO at a speed that was 2,000 times faster than a human could perform. Following the success of Ravn’s use in the case, the SFO introduced OpenText’s Axcelerate AI tool to accelerate the document categorisation process.

As 2018 saw a 713% growth in investment in legal tech start-ups, it’s unsurprising that more large and small LawTech firms are impacting the market every day. One example is Kira Systems, which is used by some of the world’s biggest law firms to automate contract review and analysis. Elsewhere we’re seeing 10 of the world’s top 100 law firms using Luminance, which uses new generation AI technology to help lawyers with sifting and scrutinising contracts. LawTech is even drawing lawyers away from their practice and into the industry, with lawyer comparison tool Lexoo created by ex-lawyers and now serving both Babylon Health and Ocado.

What this means for legal professionals

LawTech can be used to help drive work-life balance in the legal industry. In a market where lawyers are increasingly demanding flexible work conditions and greater efficiency, new systems and technologies are allowing individuals and firms to work in a more agile way. As firms move to more tech-based solutions, they are looking to invest in development or buy bespoke LawTech tools. In-house development can be an appealing option, with global firm Freshfields launching an innovation-focused in-house hub to build its own tech offering. Meanwhile, large multinational legal firms are seeing the value in investing in external solutions, such as Slaughter and May which has recently backed Luminance for the third time.

As the legal market continues moving towards a more tech-based future, lawyers and firms should remain educated on the latest developments in order to remain competitive in the industry. While not all LawTech will be adopted industry-wide – and indeed, not all LawTech will be impactful long-term – there are already many instances of systems being widely used throughout the industry. Those candidates and organisations who can work with these technologies and show a willingness to upskill and adapt may benefit from new – and more - opportunities in the future.

Ready for your next career step?

At IDEX, we pride ourselves on staying ahead of the latest trends in the legal industry, technical or otherwise. We can use this knowledge to help you take next step in your career. View our latest legal jobs here, or contact us to start a conversation.

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