Understanding what legaltech is out there and how it can help your practice.
The velocity of innovation in the legal technology space is moving at a breakneck pace that is sometimes hard to keep up with. From AI-powered evidence retrieval to predictive outcome modeling and even smart billing, it seems like technology is bleeding into nearly every aspect of the practice of law — because it is! This new innovation that is reshaping the practice of law may at times seem like it is (as we say in Texas) all hat and no cattle — in other words, a tish overhyped — but the reality is that these new technologies are impacting key tasks legal practitioners face each day.
So, let’s separate the hype from reality and break down the areas legal tech is impacting the practice of law in 2021.AI -powered counsel
While robolawyers are not going to take over the corner offices in big law and leave lawyers holding signs saying “will litigate for food,” there has been some impressive innovation with AI-powered chatbots that can replace lawyers in certain limited instances.
Dubbing itself the world's first robot lawyer, the “Do Not Pay” app initially focused on enabling people to fight their traffic tickets without having to engage a flesh and blood attorney. It has since extended capabilities to “fight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button.” The tech cuts through the legalese and jargon to get to the root of someone’s legal issue and offer guidance in plain English.
Al and advanced legaltech are being applied at multiple points along the contract lifecycle including clause extraction and analysis, contract review and due diligence drafting, and now even execution. There is also a swath of tech that helps offer powerful contract lifecycle management from inception through execution and management.
Some contract management software focuses on building out a taxonomy to assist in automated document and contract drafting, while others focus more on analyzing, identifying and categorizing clauses with an aim to reduce anomalous ones. There are even smart contracts that reside on blockchain with automatic execution based on certain parameters.
This area refers to a standardized and automated method for executing routine document tasks (approvals, assignments, requests, signatures, and claims), generation of documents, and updating the knowledge and copy within the document set. Often combined with a digital document repository, this technology serves as a single place to create, manage, and even execute documents without manual involvement. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated this area of legaltech.
By its very nature, ediscovery is technology-based and enabled, but over the last decade there have been significant improvements that include AI-powered and cloud-based technology that has dramatically accelerated time to evidence. From data visualization, to advanced technology assisted review (like DISCO AI), and communication mapping, the technology involved in ediscovery is significantly more powerful today than even a few years ago.
Knowledge management (KM) refers to the ability to search and access key information, resources and insights within a firm or corporation. In essence the aim is to “extract” key knowledge from the “minds” of the lawyers and make it searchable and available across the entire to the law firm independently of individuals. This can be incredibly useful in ensuring that key information does not leave when an individual switches firms or reuters, or simply that the right talent is tapped for a key case.
To retain and provide effective searchable access to firmwide knowledge requires a good amount of human involvement in storing and generating material, otherwise firms face “garbage in garbage out” issues. A well-executed knowledge management technology and process can yield significant benefit in cost and time efficiency for clients.
Legal technology in the ebilling space supports lawyers in outside counsel in generating accurate time entries that will be accepted by complex ebilling systems. These systems also help corporate clients by providing insight into billing patterns and inconsistencies. At the most basic level, some solutions simply assist in accurate timekeeping, while others apply AI to assist in time descriptions, and others provide details business intelligence and metrics and even estimates of time for certain tasks. The end goal is to ensure lawyers get paid, and that their clients are billed reasonably.
Practice management platforms help law firms and their clients to track important deadlines, manage client cases and documents, bill clients, and accept payments relating to their legal needs. Designed to help law firms manage the business of being a law firm, legal practice management software supports the following tasks: including case & client records, bookkeeping, billing, schedules, appointments, and more. More robust platforms also offer in-depth reporting and business intelligence around tasks billing and various capital expenses, and uncover methods of driving efficiency.
Legal matter or case management software helps manage the various aspects of a legal case or investigation by enabling you to manage, store, and track legal cases and records like contacts, intakes, documents, events, tasks, and more. A well-employed matter management solution helps legal practitioners save time, money, and be a more profitable law firm. New tools also allow you to gain case to case and practice level insights.
In the intellectual property space, document automation and AI-powered search technology are being used to dramatically reduce the time it takes to determine if an idea is patentable and file an application. R&D departments and inventors are more quickly able to establish the novelty of their invention, before commencing the costly process of drafting and filing a patent application by employing AI-powered search technology. Similar technology is also assisting in the tedious task of patent maintenance and reassessment.
One of the most fascinating and cutting-edge areas of legal tech today is the area of outcome prediction, where an AI software generates results that forecast litigation outcomes based on various data inputs from past matters. Various tools on the market aggregate court decisions at the state or federal level to make predictions of rulings based on specific fact patterns, judges, or districts. Some practitioners are using this to inform settlement discussions or funding analysis.
The future of legaltech
The ecosystem of legal technology is rapidly evolving and the breadth of its impact on the practice of law is only increasing. Judging by the 34% increase in patent filings in 2019 alone, the trend of innovation reshaping the practice of law shows no signs of slowing. Luckily these tech-enabled solutions are serving to make justice more accessible around the world and helping to free up attorneys to focus on higher value work.
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