Disruptive Trends for US Law Firms
Examples of disruptive trends US law firms are taking advantage of include big data, machine learning, blockchain, eDiscovery, and bots. These technologies are allowing law firms to improve their practices and distinguish themselves from their competitors. According to the Georgetown 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market, law firms that are proactively making strategic changes to their use of technology, pricing, staffing, and service delivery are procuring better financial results than their less tech-friendly counterparts.
Law firms are increasingly using technology like cloud storage to inexpensively store large amounts of information. Cloud storage is cheaper than onsite servers, and thanks to the speed and efficiency of this technology, the cost of storing big data has decreased. Market research company Forrester Research expected global spending on cloud technology to exceed $140 billion dollars in 2017, up from $85 billion dollars in 2015. As of 2017, thirty-eight percent of lawyers already reported using web-based software to access documents and templates, with that number expected to rise in the coming years.
Machine-learning algorithms can classify documents without human assistance. Using programs that can sort through legal documents quickly, efficiently, and accurately allows lawyers and other legal employees to spend their time on other projects. This technology can thus save clients money by reducing the number of hours lawyers have to work on mundane tasks.
Algorithms that can sift through legal documents and extract the most relevant data could reduce legal expenditures by seventy percent. This technology is quite applicable in the pre-discovery process, where it can reduce the amount of irrelevant information lawyers peruse by eighty percent.
Blockchain technology is comprised of blocks of information that create a peer-to-peer database when they are chained together. A blockchain can be used to track a transaction. They are difficult to modify and therefore can give a complete account of a transaction. This new technology could eventually replace notaries and other public registries. They are currently most applicable when dealing with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
EDiscovery is a new technology that can select the best court to present a case. They review large volumes of data, assess the party or parties involved, and look at past cases. Teams can use this information to decide what court is most likely to produce a favorable outcome for a particular client. Law firms used to rely on senior partners' knowledge of, and experience with, different court to make these decisions. With tools like eDiscovery, law firms are not forced to rely on knowledge that can be incomplete or outdated.
Bots are disrupting the legal scene by performing tasks that other legal employees used to perform, thus freeing these employees to focus on more complicated tasks instead. Bots are increasingly being used to prepare tax returns, for example. Larger law firms are even using bots to communicate with clients.
Some companies are taking bot technology even further. ROSS was the first AI (artificial intelligence) lawyer "hired" by the law firm Baker & Hostetler in 2016. ROSS uses IBM Watson technology to sift through documents (old case files, for instance), offer clear opinions, and compare rulings to current cases. This combines bots with machine learning technology and is an example of what could be used more in the future.
OTHER DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES
Other notable trends disrupting the US legal field revolve around saving clients money. Some new online platforms, like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Rocket Lawyer LISA are saving clients time and money by allowing them to research answers to legal questions online before they hire a law firm. LegalZoom has over three million users and high approval ratings because its efficiency and accessibility saves clients money.
Furthermore, by the end of this year, more law firms are expected to use smart contracts to save their clients money. Clients will be able to access value-added services at a lower cost.
Big data, machine learning, blockchain, eDiscovery, and bots, along with programs that reduce costs, are increasingly being used to get faster, more cost-efficient results. Law firms who use these technologies can set themselves apart from their competitors and offer the very best service to their clients. Law firms must innovate and take advantage of new technologies or risk being left behind.