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Technology in Law Future Prospects

I found an article that presents a compelling overview as to how technology is changing the law firm and the types of technology that may prove the most advantageous to the profession. Even though the author cites lawyers are risk averse, he believes it is a necessary aspect of the legal profession and one of the main considerations that need to be balanced when attempting to keep up with technological advances around the world. Lawyers are tasked with the substantial burden of providing a type of guarantee that they will utilize the services and knowledge they have, as promised in an effort to meet client needs. Without familiar and successful services, lawyers would not be able to accomplish their stated goals. As the tension grows between providing legal service to clients and law firms looking to edge out the competition, firms will find themselves competing against outside legal service providers in order to bridge the gap between the technology savvy and the technology-averse.

Artificial intelligence and the law firm have slowly begun to mesh and provide lawyers with specific information and accomplish tasks that would be less efficient if performed solely by humans. Specifically e-discovery has become a prominent artificial intelligence utilized for the primary steps in preparation for litigation. This technology appears to be meshing well with more attorneys, even if it is a rather slow process, because it is more efficient in the gathering of information but also utilizes attorneys or like minded legal professionals. Professionals looking to implement e-discovery into law firms must have skills in statistics along with successful project management ability. These skills are becoming highly coveted and advanced training is now required to implement many forms of e-discovery. In addition, e-discovery also has the benefit of predictive coding, where a machine learns from watching human behavior and then utilizes algorithms to make decisions about relevant information. This technology may not be accepted by all in the legal community, but it seems to be a technology well-suited to the legal profession because it implements cutting-edge technology without taking away some aspects of human input, so perceived risk can be minimized.

Despite these advances in technology, it appears as though the use of the billable hour may be one of the most difficult aspects to replace or enhance with technology. While some law firms have chose to embrace a fixed fee system, the majority still utilize the billable hour despite its lack of efficiency. In the article, the author suggested a potential integrated system where some services are at a fixed rate and additional services are at a billable hour. This idea could prove fruitful but must be attempted with realistic expectations. In the future, law firms may begin to explore concepts of “big data” and unstructured databases, technology concepts being heavily used in large, cutting-edge businesses. While businesses often utilize outside service providers to accomplish these tasks, firms may benefit from some in-house providers to help transition law firms stuck in a technology-averse bubble. Larger law firms could benefit from “big data” type of services, but must keep in mind the individuality of each client, as opposed to grouping them into a whole. Firms run the risk of losing the individualized aspect of legal services if artificial intelligence takes over, however an in-house technology team and proper training to employees may help mitigate these concerns and ease firms into the 21st century workforce.


-Kristen Schulz