It’s no secret the legal profession is feeling the pinch.
With more lawyers and more price-based competition plus a decline in demand, we’re all looking for ways to compete, streamline processes and use technology for efficiency.
So what are the hot legal trends for 2016? Here’s 5 key themes for the New Year:
1. Big Data is Big on The Horizon
Yep, big data, business intelligence, Artificial Intelligence – they’re all the rage and it’s here to stay. Your firm or organization’s information is important and the market is capitalizing on ways to determine the value of data, protect it and also quantify data security risks.
Doug Laney of Gartner Inc has predicted 3 big data trends for 2016. The first prediction is that information will be used to reinvent, digitize or eliminate 80% of business processes and products from a decade earlier. Yep, 80%
So the message is clear: through increased connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT), we are automating and delivering services once reserved for human intervention and the legal profession is not immune.
Laney further predicts that data or decision brokers will become an essential part of intelligent business operations and smart business decisions, and that customer-facing analytics, ie, product tracking, will be the next big thing by 2017 (think affordable sensors embedded into all types of products for greater transparency).
Throw in some machine learning and AI and we’re looking at a rapidly changing legal market. According to Thomson Reuters’ 2015 Report, Australia: State of the Legal Market, some Australian firms have shown strong interest in the future use of artificial intelligence in legal work. Watch the big data space – there’s lots more coming on this front.
2. Automate and Innovate: Or Lose Your Job to Robots
I’ve said it before, but Sonny the Robot is coming to get your job my legal pals and it’s no longer such a far fetched idea.
Jerry Kaplan, author of “Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”, says white-collar workers like lawyers But white-collar workers like lawyers are at just as much risk of losing their jobs to AI as factory workers because much of what they do is mundane, structured and routine.
“Even for what you think of as highly-trained, highly-skilled, intuitive personable professions, it is still true that the vast majority of the work is routine,” Kaplan told Tech Insider in August 2015.
Lawyers may debate and pontificate in court, he says, but in reality, the daily grind is more often than not related to drafting contracts, working on leases, real estate deals and pre-trial discovery.
So, yep, we’re susceptible to automation. And the more you can innovate using technology and develop your skills in a niche specialist area that goes beyond the routine and the mundane, the safer you’ll be. (And it’ll be way more fun, right?)
3. Project Management, Pricing and Profitability
This trend has been developing for a while but it’s picking up speed. Firms and companies are using technology to streamline billing processes and manage alternative fee arrangements (AFAs).
According to Think Tank, Aderant, in an era of escalating client pressure for top value, more and more firms are offering alternative fee arrangements and becoming more cognizant of client budgets. And as firms improve their processes, the legal billing software and process management technology to support those processes is popping up everywhere. This hopefully means better value for clients and increased profitability for firms.
4. Decline of ‘BigLaw’, Growth of Boutique and ‘NewLaw’ Firms
Watch out Big Law and Large Law and all other ‘big’ things (except big data, of course).
The boutique, the niche, the small and the new are finally having their time in the sun. The Davids are taking on the Goliaths.
The Thomson Reuters 2015 report revealed a 6-month analysis of Lawyers Weekly articles to 25 July 2015, indicating that over 20 boutique firms were established in Australia over the preceding 18 months. And even though the flurry of New Law startups in 201 to 2014 steadied somewhat, the growth of these types of firms (think Advent Balance, Hive, Bespoke, Nexus, Marque, etc) is still likely to continue in 2016 and beyond.
The report also makes an interesting conclusion: the firms that excel in “softer” capabilities such as agility, discipline, execution, cultural cohesion, diversity and true collaboration will be the winners of the future.
5. Communicate, Collaborate and Connect
Last but not least, communication will be a key theme for 2016.
Cloud computing technology offers a range of solutions designed to access stored information as well as communicate with clients online. Communication portals will be a far more attractive option for lawyers who want to ensure that their communications with clients remain confidential and secure. Hosted solutions are becoming more and more cost-effective than on-premise systems so even solos, SMEs and boutiques can afford the technology, evening out the marketplace.
We’re all about communication here at Legaler but of course we’re a little biased – we’re super pumped about what our new, secure communication platform has to offer legal practitioners. It’s designed purely for the legal profession and is set to make communication for lawyers easier, simpler and smarter. You can sign up for our exclusive platform and global directory of lawyers here.
So some of the news is grim but it’s exciting too. In an era of declining demand and increased competition, you can’t choose complacency or mediocrity. We must all innovate, progress and find our place in the legal market to survive and flourish long term.
What do you think the hottest legal tech trends are for 2016 and beyond? Sign up to Legaler here and we’d love to hear your comments below.