It’s clear that technology has infiltrated every industry and the legal sector is no different. The sector is often viewed as cautious and a relatively late adopter of technology. However, the use of technology is nothing new in the legal sector; litigators have been using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to maximise efficiency in the discovery and research processes for the past ten years. This is prolific throughout the sector and we can’t see this stopping anytime soon. AI is capable of vast amounts of data to find connections, correlations and event predictions. I recently attended a fascinating seminar discussing law firms’ increasing need to be able to analyse “big data” when it comes to FCA investigations in market manipulation cases.
Before we go any further, and just to avoid confusion, it’s important to remember technology can be broken down as follows:
- AI and machine learning;
- Cloud computing;
- Big Data and legal research;
- Automation; and
- DIY law and chatbots
However, it’s not only law firms’ clients that are demanding the use of technology, legal functions themselves are adopting technology for their own benefits – legal services provider Lexoo recently asked GCs and legal counsel what their top three priorities are for the coming year, the results were as follows:
1. 63% of respondents said that adopting new tech tools was top of their agenda;
2. 53% said reducing legal spend was one of their main aims in 2019; and
3. 49% are looking for more efficient outsourcing of legal work.
So it's official, GCs are cutting their legal spend and embracing new technology in order to make their legal functions more cost and time effective. This is in turn enabling GCs to concentrate on more strategic work for their corporations. Traditionally legal functions have been seen by corporations as a costly yet necessary investment and now GCs are able to address this through the adoption of technology.
New Law offerings are also not a new contender in the legal market, however, activity is ramping up in line with demand – and now we are even seeing consolidation in the market. A year ago Clifford Chance took over Carillion, since followed by EY and Riverview, UnitedLex and CVC, and most recently Elevate and Halebury.
So who are the most prominent players in the New Law market at the moment? According to The Lawyer they can broadly be split into three groups:
- The accountants
- Tech-driven contracts businesses – including Elevate, Exigent and High Q
- The flexible lawyering businesses – such as, Axion, Lawyers on Demand and Halebury
- Then we have etablished law firm’s with their own their on flexible resource businesses – Allen & Overy’s Peerpoint and Pinsent Masons’ Vario.
It is clear that technology has transformed the legal market and it doesn’t look like its going to stop anytime soon. Although IT companies and start-ups (which have set up tech law incubators) are currently driving research and developing new products, we can now see more established players looking to do the same. Dentons created NextLaw Labs, Allen & Overy has launched Fuse and the Law Society has partnered with equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs to give law firms an opportunity to invest in legal tech enterprises.
From this whistle-stop tour of technology in the legal sector it is clear that the sector has wholeheartedly embraced the use of tech and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop anytime soon.