Legaltech Retrospective: Predictions About Legal Technology

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On the heels of Legaltech New York, I decided to set down some of my thoughts about the future of legal technology. In this four-part series, I will cover four predictions:

  1. Legal technology will empower lawyers across all areas of practice
  2. The rise of legal technology professionals in law firms and corporate legal departments
  3. A recipe for products that lawyers will actually adopt
  4. Cloud and SaaS will replace on-premise software

Each part will include examples of how the prediction could play out, and the series will conclude with my thoughts on how we achieve this future of legal technology.

Without further ado, let’s dive into part one….

Empowering lawyers across all areas of practice

Legal technology will automate parts of the practice of law that are fundamentally repetitive.

For example, looking at millions of documents to find those that relate to disputed events or taking contracts used in dozens of jurisdictions and determining the enforceability of their principal clauses under each jurisdiction’s changing law.

This automation will enable lawyers to deliver existing legal services cheaper, better, and faster (as in the document review example) and will make legal services that were formerly prohibitively expensive practical (as in the contract analysis example).

But legal technology won’t replace lawyers in delivering legal services. 

Executives won’t use ediscovery software to find legally relevant documents directly, and salespeople won’t use contract analysis software to determine their risk or decide what to do in a dispute with a customer. Lawyers will continue to be the ones who apply legal judgment, deliver all things considered advice informed by, but not limited to, the law, and act for clients in the real world. In building legal technology, our goal should not be to replace lawyers in delivering legal services, but, instead, to automate the parts of the practice that can be automated so that lawyers can focus on doing only the things that only they can do.

Legal technology will touch all areas of practice — not just ediscovery and legal research, the areas to which it is largely confined today.

Here are some examples:

  1. Automatic organization of case files and production of timelines, proof tables, and other work product needed to manage large commercial litigation.
  2. Automatic analysis of what arguments and evidence are persuasive in front of particular judges in particular kinds of cases, i.e., at a tactical level, what arguments should a lawyer advance to win.
  3. Automatic creation of transaction documents, with the ability to interact at a term sheet level, instantly understand nonstandard clauses and how they vary, and embody business negotiations immediately in legally effective language.
  4. Automatic analysis of legal submissions like regulatory filings or briefs to identify problematic positions or possible additions.

To get a sense of what areas are open for legal technology, think of a grid, in which the rows are things lawyers do, like litigation, transactions, advisory work, judging, regulating, legislating, and operationalizing legal rules in organizations of nonlawyers, and the columns are parts of the legal process, like finding relevant facts, determining applicable law, applying law to facts, executing legal tactics like generating filings, predicting or determining outcomes, and managing the people and process involved in handling large matters of each type at scale. 

Legal technology will touch all areas of practice -- not just ediscovery and legal research

The cells in this grid are opportunities for legal technology, and almost none of them are filled. That will change quickly...

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Kiwi Camara