Clickbait titles don’t appeal to me but my original idea for a title here – “Incremental Change in 2020” – just sounded too lame. Unlike many other commentators, I shy away from bold predictions of big changes coming soon.

I’ve worked for three decades in the corporate legal market and have witnessed many incremental changes but few dramatic ones. Yet Big Law today does look rather different than it did when I started in the 1980s. The new look, however, flows from many small changes.

Consistent with that view, here are my 2020 predictions, consolidated from three other publications that published them. The first two are very short, just a sentence each. The third and last is a bit longer so I quote only the title.

Creating consolidated platforms as an idea gained traction in 2019. Legal tech nonetheless still seems fragmented to me, so I think there are more opportunities to combine.

Rise of the ‘Platform’ Slated to Drive 2020 Legal Tech Deals ( Bloomberg Big Law Business, Sam Skolnik, 18 December 2019)

“I’ll go out on a limb with one specific prediction: legal innovation talk will peak but innovation activity will continue, albeit with less noise about it.”

Artificial Lawyer Readers’ Predictions For 2020 (Artificial Lawyer, Richard Tromans, 18 December 2019.)

Incremental Change

25+ Legal Tech and Business of Law Predictions for 2020 (Aderant, December 2019). Here is the full text:

Law practice and law firm business: 2020 will see incremental change, notwithstanding the ongoing hype about innovation and AI. Even very visible economic changes – the e-commerce driven de-retailing of the US – takes years to unfold. Law won’t move faster. With so many new legal products and new law firm innovation leads, the market needs time to absorb and deliver.

Competitors to law firms and the supply side: 2019 saw Big 4 moves and explosive legal tech funding. As with law firms, the impact will take time to play out. We’ve heard a lot about investment. Until we hear about returns, I am skeptical 2020 will bring more big investment or dramatic change.

Clients and legal operations: Both will mature in 2020. As I see the data, rapid growth of legal ops has peaked, and it now faces a period of focusing on greater impact instead.

Two 2020 wildcards: First, keep an eye on US states that may re-regulate law firm ownership rules. Outside owners would be big, but the UK experience suggests not market busting. And second, a recession? If law firm demand plummets and management slashes costs, which law firm innovation initiatives and legal tech companies survive?

As I am fond of saying, I hope I am proven wrong by a big event in 2020.