Earlier this year, Aderant, via its Think Tank, asked several legal market experts “What are the top legal technology trends so far in 2015?”.

Aderant published its synthesis of the answers here on 24 July 2015. The detailed answers of each expert about legal tech appear here (see end note for the list of other experts answering).

The question initially posed to me and my answers appear below. I was pleased that Aderant’s legal tech predictions summary covered two of my three points. On re-reading my answers, I still believe they apply strongly to 2015 – and likely well into 2016. For my answers to change in 2016, there would need to be a big surprise in the legal or tech market.

What are the top 3 legal technology trends you have seen so far in 2015, and what do you expect to see in the near future? Why should law firms/attorneys be paying attention to these?
  1. Security and the Cloud – Large law firms face increasing pressure to tighten security, especially from major financial institutions. Law firm breaches and security concerns have been the topic of prominent articles in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. So firms continue to invest to improve security infrastructure.  At the same time, the world is rapidly moving to cloud services, which, at least in some firms, conflict with security concerns. Resolving security and deciding what can or should move to the cloud are likely to be issues that occupy both IT professionals and firm management for some time to come. Firm management and partners must pay attention to these issues. The stakes are too high not to and the risk/benefit decisions are as much if not more management than IT decisions.
  2. Legal Project Management, Pricing, and Profitability. In an era of clients’ drive for value, more and more firms offer alternative fee arrangements and budgets. This drives firms to change their thinking – and processes – around managing matters. While there are big cultural issues and firm management decisions involved (e.g., how to measure profitability), technology is important. Once firms decide what they want to do, they need software that enables partners, associates, and staff to budget and track what they do. A new class of software is emerging to help firms and it will be a focus this year – and probably beyond. Even the most profitable firms with the best brands focus attention on LPM and pricing. Management and partners that fail to follow this and consciously decide their strategy risk losing market share and potentially face declining profitability.
  3. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Big Data is in the news daily. Similarly, headlines about IBM Watson regularly appear in mainstream media. The impact of Big Data analytics, AI, and machine learning techniques on the legal market remain an open question. But numerous firms are exploring how the tools and techniques can help them better serve clients and manage the firm. Management and partners must stay abreast of these issues and determine if they need to act. Technology is ubiquitous today and, if nothing else, partners must have a reasonably educated point of view or risk client ire – or worse.

Management must keep in mind one meta-message that applies to all of the aboveFirms that simply buy technology – as many have in the past – expecting “the magic bullet” that cures their woes are in for a rude awakening. Technology alone rarely fixes problems. Rather, combined with  changes in practice and management, it helps solve problems. Security requires lawyers to exercise care. Pricing and project management is more than “pushing a button” – it means actually changing how lawyers work and communicate. Big Data and AI may or may not solve a problem or create competitive advantage. Figuring that out requires active engagement – not just buying software.

End Note: Other experts answering the question:

  • Peter Frankl, CPA specializing in the legal industry, Publisher of Legal Practice Intelligence
  • John Yates, Partner and Chair of the Technology Group, Morris, Manning & Martin LLP
  • Peter Secor, Director of Strategic Pricing and Project Management, Pepper Hamilton LLP
  • Mary Juetten, Founder and CEO, Traklight, Co-Founder Evolve Law and legal technology writer
  • Ryan McClead, Legal Technology Innovation Architect, Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Rupert Collins-White, Head of Content and Community, Legal Support Network
  • Ted Brooks, Founder and CEO, Litigation-Tech LLC