Legal issues facing the next generation of lawyers

19 February 2021 10:00

Videsha Proothveerajh, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of LexisNexis South Africa

“Legal firms now have the opportunity to reinvent themselves through innovation.”

[Johannesburg, 10 May 2021] It’s no secret that technology is changing the face of law practice. A quick look around the world at how legal technology is being received is summed up in the following stats:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is really exploding. According to a report by Zion Market Research, the global AI legal technology market is expected to generate more than $37.8 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 36%.*
  • 53% of lawyers across the U.S. and Europe say legal technology investment will increase at their firms in the next three years.*
  • 80% of organisations leveraging technology effectively will have adopted smart contracts, decision support tools and predictive analysis by 2022. They say they’ll be using blockchain, machine learning and AI within three years.*
  • 65% of law firms prioritise LegalTech spend into AI software such as Smart Contracts or Tech Assisted Document Review (TADR).
  • 75% of law firms spend over 4% of gross billings on IT infrastructure and software.
  • 50-80% of tasks carried out by junior lawyers will be automated by LegalTech.
  • If you feel like you’re falling behind in your technology and innovation investment, you wouldn’t be alone; in one study by Deloitte and Oxford Economics, 56% of law executives from nine countries said enough wasn’t being spent on technology.*
  • More than 50% of lawyers expect AI, big data, predictive analytics and machine learning to make an impact. However, less than one-quarter of lawyers say they actually understand the transformative technologies.*
  • In a survey of 80 legal professionals conducted by The Legal Festival, nearly 50% of respondents said the biggest challenge to driving innovation within their organization was finding enough time and money to step away from “business as usual.”*

What’s clear is that the 4th Industrial Revolution represents the next opportunity to not only play catch up but to leapfrog the competition.

Innovations resulting from 4IR include block chain, biometrics, artificial intelligence, bio-agency, autonomous machines like self-driving cars, renewable energy, 3D printing, drones, virtual reality and robotics.

However, along with the many positive outcomes and possibilities these new innovations deliver, are ethical issues and risks for a new generation of lawyers to manage, including the rise of digital social movements, cybercrime, threats to data transparency and accountability.

Those who embrace the opportunity and invest in technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and mitigate risk have the chance to change the rules of the game and stay ahead.

LegalTech Trends

Tech Trends emerging in the legal landscape resulting from 4IR include:

Changes to operating models: Law firms move client-facing and back-office functions to the cloud. Virtual assistants, remote employees, temporary, contract and freelance workers, become more common, enabling firms to scale up or down based on need. The legal field is no longer the exclusive preserve of the law firm. Routine, high volume legal work is outsourced to alternative legal service providers.

Social media and the law: More and more people are now participating in local, national and global activism through social media platforms, pushing social problems and gaps in policy to the forefront.

New talent and hiring strategies: Artificial Intelligence replaces workers who perform purely repetitive tasks and transforms the roles of other legal professionals.

Millennials in the workforce: As millennials enter the workforce, they bring with them an increased reliance on technology and a desire for alternative work arrangements.

A broader commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality: Assistive devices and technologies level the playing field for persons with disabilities.

Increased focus on the client experience: Law firms step up their game to add value, reduce costs and offer a more client-centric approach. They invest in AI for repetitive tasks, and leverage augmented and virtual reality tools to convey key points in the courtroom , train new lawyers and collaborate with clients and experts.

Emerging technologies: Among solutions being applied in the legal field are:

  • Guided pathways - Tools that guide users through a decision tree by asking a series of questions and offering pre-defined outcomes based on specific responses
  • Automated document assembly - Tools that automate the creation of legal documents or completion of court forms based on relevant information
  • Online dispute resolution (ODR) - Online tools that allow for resolving consumer or civil law disputes without escalating to the courts.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) - AI is an umbrella term for a variety of digital systems including machine learning and big data approaches to train and optimise their performance at tasks normally requiring human intelligence. In a legal context, it involves problem-solving capacity including data extraction, complex decision making, or operational planning.
  • eDiscovery – which reduces litigation costs and saves lawyers time through the use of proper eDiscovery technology to manage evidence, amid the growing volume of data being generated and stored rapidly across multiple formats.

Technology driving new practice areas: Innovations such as autonomous vehicles, use of drones and impact of climate change are providing new lines of legal work.

Heightened focus on privacy and security: Digital, data privacy and security play a critical role in an era of growing cybercrime.

Microniches: Firms become specialists in niche areas with a deep understanding of the client, their industry, goals and pain points, becoming thought leaders in their chosen niches.

How to take advantage of these trends

Legal firms looking to embrace these opportunities can turn to LexisNexis, as one of the first companies dedicated to gathering, organising and analysing what we now call big data. Our primary objective is to Advance the Rule of Law, by enablinglegal professionals to fulfill their passion, which is to provide legal services and solutions to their customers and society at large, without worrying about being usurped by technology.

Factually, AI can only ever tackle the mundane, repetitive and the boring. The kinds of tasks that we never wanted to do anyway. Recall your days as a candidate attorney. Any tasks you hated doing? How about a future where decades of case records are automatically filed, tagged and retrieved using AI algorithms? Imagine a future where voice commands are well-understood and a system of record brings forth the exact and pertinent snippet in a flash.

Of course, with all of the positive outcomes and possibilities from transformation, there are associated risks that must be understood, among them cybercrime, identify theft and privacy breaches.

Increasing your company’s digital footprint enables business models to be created and scaled at incredible pace, but the surface area for crime as a service increases exponentially as companies explore the social, mobile, analytics and cloud opportunities. For example, the deployment of smart devices – increases your attack footprint. You will need to take steps to secure your transformed business.

With the advent of the 4IR, a new set of social challenges has also come to bear. Examples include:

  • Freedom of speech and privacy, fake news, biased information and hate speech on social media,
  • Activism through social media platforms, which is pushing social problems and gaps in policy to the forefront, and
  • Cloud Computing, which raises the question of data sovereignty.

In the face of these new risks and concerns, it can sometimes seem like the safest option to just do nothing or to wait and see what others do before making your own move. Whilst this might reduce the risk associated with change, it also increases the risk that whilst you are waiting – other companies will forge ahead and gain ground on you.

The pragmatic approach is to be prepared and mitigate risk as much as possible. Take advice and seek out best practice from experienced and trusted partners like LexisNexis South Africa who can help you to scope and understand the risks, and to put the necessary safeguards in place.

The risk of doing nothing is not really an option. This is a time of Digital Darwinism – an era where technology and society are evolving faster than businesses can naturally adapt.  Legal firms now have the opportunity to reinvent themselves through innovation.

Winning legal firms in the new economy will be founded on the Rule of Law, Data Driven, Available on Demand (web/cloud), Trusted and will deliver a Connected Experience through an Interactive Workforce.

Want to experience Unmatched Legal Intelligence, through an ecosystem of interconnected legal resources, giving you everything from trusted legal commentary to regulatory compliance alerts and practical “how to” legal guidance? Find out more here.