The impact of technology on work has seen humans and machines collaborate, manual tasks automate, agility become the norm, and traditional career paths change.
In the legal sector, this disruption presents vast challenges as firms struggle to move from traditional hierarchies, manual research requirements, time-based billing models, and other traditional ways of operating, into tech-empowered models fit for the future.
But technology also presents an opportunity for law firms to fulfil ambitious growth strategies, be equipped to handle constant disruption, deliver to evolving client demands, and to attract and retain good staff.
The impact of automation
Technology in the form of robotic process automation and cognitive computing continues to improve at an immensely rapid pace, and so is its uptake.
According to AngelList, that hosts a register of Silicon Valley Venture Capital investments, in the last 12 months there have been 1,800 different technology start-up companies in the law sector attracting over over $1 million in VC funds.
There are four broad areas worth consideration by law firms.
Research and discovery tools
What technology will allow legal firms to access background documents and case studies quicker?
Natural language machine learning tools that look beyond key words, and understand meaning, can help to speed up research and bring more accuracy. This technology can allow lawyers to focus more on their core strengths, hone their strategies to attract new clients, and retain existing ones.
Simulation and prediction
A whole range of tools are available that simulate a whole range of outcomes before locking in on decisions. For example, ‘what if we use this argument, what if we approach jury selection in a particular way?’
Tools that create text to help to write contracts, such as standard non-disclosure agreements or commercial contracts could take away repetitive tasks for lawyers. Demand is high for non-disclosure and intellectual property agreements, so being able to prepare automated document generation will free up time for the other more vital services law firms can provide.
Law firms need to evaluate the way they operate in terms of intellectual capital, knowledge and document management, along with improving productivity on a day-to-day basis.
So, should lawyers be worried about being replaced by AI?
Rather than fear robotic process automation, technology should be seen as a way to improve client services, and enable people to engage in higher value tasks.
The future of law will involve ‘legal engineering’ by transforming data and algorithms into knowledge to assist lawyers in more effective decision making. Law firms will benefit from having an understanding on how algorithms impact products and services they currently use to access data. Technology to interpret complex information and answer difficult questions will place law firms and lawyers in the strongest position to provide the best answer for their clients.
Embracing robotics does not mean lawyers will be driven out of the job. AI cannot replace creativity, empathy, instinctive decision-making and expert knowledge. Bots are able to take care of tasks that are thoroughly rules based that frees up people to invest in other responsibilities only humans are capable of undertaking.
Adapt or fall behind. Now is the perfect time to reimagine every layer of the workplace to future proof the legal profession.