Now that the new year is well underway, it’s time to look ahead to what 2018 might bring the legal profession. The previous year saw significant advances in legaltech and its adoption by law firm innovation teams. Firms began to experiment with new business models and billing methods as clients demanded more value amidst increased competition. Lawyers at every level prepared for the ineffable ‘disruption’ and what it might mean for their jobs, their roles and their revenue. Against this backdrop, Insights compiled four big predictions for what will impact the legal profession in 2018.
- Junior lawyers upskilled in the automated law firm
Despite the hype and hyperbole surrounding disruption, hiring rates in the legal sector are set to decrease by only 0.6% by 2025. What will change for lawyers, however, is their role, with 15% of work conducted by lawyers likely to be automatable by 2030.
According to McCarthyFinch Legal Tech Counsel Jean Yang, AI doesn’t need to lead to despair for junior lawyers.
“During my first year as a junior lawyer, I was asked to check some documents for a hearing. A large portion of the task was highly repetitive, manual and time intensive. I asked a developer I knew to write code that could automate the repetitive parts of the tasks. It turned a five-day task to two days. It liberated me to assist with the submissions and consider the substantive issues of the case,” said Jean.
“There’s a huge number of skills required to adapt to the future – judgment, technology competency, decision making, deductive reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving, etc – all of which junior lawyers have in spades,” said Nick Whitehouse, CEO of McCarthyFinch.
“These skills won’t only be relevant in law firms, but across business, in-house counsel, and all industries. Juniors will be able to make use of conjoint skills which are currently under-appreciated, and contribute in a way which will benefit both their employers and their career growth.
“AI doesn’t need to mean fewer jobs. It can simply mean more opportunities – for everyone.”
- Robin Hood: Robot lawyer
The high price of accessing justice can often be, for many Australians, the most prohibitive aspect of law. Services like Allira – Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Resource Assistant – are changing how clients receive legal advice. By answering a few simple questions, Ailira can generate a fully certified will, or provide advice on business structuring and asset protection.
“People who really need access to justice are the people who can least afford it,” lawyer and developer of Ailira Adrian Cartland told the ABC.
“There is a huge untapped demand for legal services, and by reducing price and bringing access to justice, we can both benefit the consumer and benefit the legal profession. Empathy, creativity, contextual reasoning: that’s what humans are good at and what we enjoy doing.
“Robots can do the same thing again and again really well, but what they’re less good at is thinking outside the box and coming up with something totally new. If you’ve got a question that’s really difficult, Ailira can go off to a human lawyer and find that answer.”
Ailira was recently rolled out to a remote Darwin community, and will soon be used to assist with domestic violence cases.
- Late adopters will be left behind – and hacked
Failure to adopt threatens not merely revenue, but the integrity of a firm’s security systems. Recently a Pennsylvania prosecutor’s office was forced to pay $1,400 to recover its data following a ransomware attack. Indeed, new ransomware distributed via email is targeting law firms. A law firm in Chicago faced a class action for failing to sufficiently protect its client information, while hackers with ties to the Chinese government successfully infiltrated many major law firms.
Given the strict requirements of confidentiality faced by lawyers, late adoption – or avoidance – of better, more secure technology is not an option for firms. Improving security and uptake of technology will be an increasing priority for law firms in 2018, especially smaller firms and sole practices.
- Lawyers won’t lose their jobs – but roles will be reimagined
Lawyers in 2018 will continue the shift towards being trusted advisors rather than purely sources of legal expertise. Technology will enable legal expertise to be easily accessible to every lawyer, augmenting their role and allowing them to provide what clients value most: strategic advice and counsel.
“We’re seeing the emergence of tech-collaborative lawyers – savvy professionals who are essentially partnering with technology to forge ahead with non-traditional career paths,” Simon Wilkins, general manager of LexisNexis Australia, told IT Brief Australia.
“Law is a profession which at the bedrock is built on principle and integrity, and the public looks to the law and the lawyers that practice it to uphold this integrity. The shift towards a collaborative people-tech paradigm provides lawyers with the opportunity to focus on the elements of legal work that deliver clients value – such as problem solving, offering strategic counsel, and improving access to legal remedy.”