In July 2018, the Lord Chancellor David Gauke announced the creation of a panel of industry experts to support and accelerate the development and adoption of innovative legal technologies. The Ministry of Justice has said that the group “will provide direction to the legal sector and help foster an environment in which new technology can thrive”.
Up until relatively recently the law sector has been a late and, sometimes sceptical, adopter of new technology. Where other industries such as financial services and, more recently property, have thrived, the legal profession have tended to remain with their traditional methods of working.
But with increased competition from alternative service providers and gradually reduced profitability, businesses within this sector need to turn to innovation to provide new and more cost-effective services to their clients and stay ahead of their rivals.
Here are just some of the tech developments within the market.
Text Analytics and AI
AI has been a regular topic of conversation within legal sector for a while now, with firms looking at how the computerised intelligence can save time on case research, improve productivity, reduce costs and provide greater accuracy levels by reducing human error.
One of the biggest sources of labour-intensive work is the manual review of contracts – this can take up large amounts of valuable time and resources.
AI-enabled text analytics has the ability to ‘speed-read’ documents with human-like understanding. Powerful server recognition, data capture and natural language processing identify key sections, clauses, entities and facts from contracts and other complex, partitioned business documents.
Although it is mainly the big law firms who are currently experimenting with AI tools, firms of all sizes should keep up to speed with the latest developments, both to take advantage of new products which could potentially level the playing field, and to look out for threats from digital technology start-ups.
Disrupting with Blockchain
Blockchain technology is now starting to be a big disrupter within the legal field. A blockchain records data across a peer-to-peer network. Every participant can see the data and verify or reject it. Approved data is then entered into the ledger as a collection of “blocks” and stored in a chronological “chain” that cannot be altered.
One area that truly benefits from this new technology is smart contracts. These contracts are self-executing agreements that parties encode into blockchain. This is then decentralised which creates the security - the technology never stores data on just one single lone server - but the information is accessible to all participating parties. Anything of value can be exchanged, including money, property, stocks, etc., while eliminating the need for intermediaries like escrow agents or notaries.
Blockchain transactions are often faster, cheaper, and more secure than more traditional methods. They have a clear paper trail and could eventually be rolled out across many types of legal matters, such as property records, court filings, and transfer of funds to clients.
Digitisation of documentation
Digitising documents and storing them via the cloud not only gives lawyers access to information in a few simple clicks, but it also enables remote document access via mobile phone and tablet devices. This not only saves on time and resources, but eliminates the need for hard copies which will also help the environment.
There are many new technologies available that give digital documents the flexibility and intuitive interface of a pen and paper. This enables legal teams to share screens and edit documents in real time, encouraging collaboration.
Protecting with technology
With the wealth of confidential data and vast sums of money involved in the legal sector, security is a constant concern for all law firms today. Regardless of the size of business, cybercriminals are continually developing new tactics and approaches to compromise business data.
A recent report from PWC quoted that more than 60 percent of law firms have experienced some form of cyber-attack.
And with new regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Know Your Client (KYC) requirements, compliance is imperative. The ability to encrypt data and enforce multi-factor identification will also be crucial for law firm security.
Most professional legal firms now outsource their IT to suppliers that have strict data security practices and standards, which can give the business the highest level of security at a reasonable cost.
As in most industries, there is now a need for increased mobility amongst the workforce. Within the law sector, it is not only to give employees greater flexibility to work from home and on the move with secure access to all documents, but there has also been a generational shift in this sector with many moving towards freelance and portfolio-based careers. The new legal service business model is based around freelance work, offering both lawyers and their client's greater autonomy over how, when and where they work. Making sure your business has the infrastructure to deliver these work options will make your firm a good employment prospect to attract the best talent.
Getting the technology right
The importance of technology is growing within the legal sector and embracing the innovation will be essential to stay competitive. Investing in the right infrastructure to support your business and its tech plans is key. We can make sure you have the right IT in place to deliver the best digital solutions for your business.