Though we're well into the 21st century, the legal profession is one with a reputation of being behind the times. Fax machines and paper documents still dominate many offices and courtrooms. But during the pandemic, we've discovered that many in-person parts of the legal system that many took for granted can be automated. If we can move court proceedings online, what can't we revolutionize with technology?
It could turn out to be a watershed moment for the profession. Technology is disrupting the way many lawyers, paralegals, and others do business, and the trend only appears to be ramping up.
The American Bar Association wrote in a 2018 opinion that the threat of a data breach for businesses is so high that it's not a matter of if, but when.
Alex Brown is a Maryland attorney and partner with Shapiro Sher. He told TechBullion that the insurance sphere has been a "fascinating" space to watch, as "professionals are in an ongoing race to stay up-to-date on the technology relating to these and other risks so that insurance can be fairly priced for everyone."
Law firms are a prime target for hackers due to the large amount of sensitive data they store. That's why up-to-date data security policies, staff training, encryption, and access control are key issues that firms have to deal with moving forward.
The legal community has always been a tight-knit one. But over the past couple of years, it's been a bit tricky to get beers with your colleagues. That's why online spaces like LawyerSmack, Lawyerist, and r/LawFirm on Reddit have expanded in popularity during the pandemic.
Lawyers have stressful jobs. But thankfully it's easier than ever to get your questions answered, meet new friends, and blow off steam with burgeoning online communities.
Depending on the niche, much of a lawyer's day can be spent talking to clients. And tricky client communication can trip up even the most experienced litigator. With an increase in telecommuting during the pandemic and beyond, solid two-way communication is more important than ever.
As such, more and more firms are streamlining their communications through tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Join.me, and Evernote. This allows for a company to synchronize all its communications into one place, and gives lawyers flexible options for their clients.
The bane of many lawyers' careers, and often relegated to paralegals or junior associates, discovery is finally getting easier. With the rise of companies like CloudNine, Relativity, and Everlaw, the process can take far fewer people-hours than before.
The artificial intelligence baked into these softwares can automate tasks like document reviews, case narratives, and highlighting data. And as AI gets better in the years to come, so will they.
Today's case management software is essentially an all-in-one solution for all the grunt work lawyers hate doing, and often farm out to secretaries or other positions. Software like PracticePanther, MyCase, and CosmoLex can manage documents, contacts, calendaring, time tracking, billing, invoicing, credit card processing, and more.
This can help lawyers spend less time on administrative tasks and more time doing what they were hired to do — practicing law.
Other time-consuming tasks can be helped by analytics firms. Things like contract review, editing, and approval often take up the bulk of legal workers' days. But startups like LawGeex use artificial intelligence to automate the contract review process. It claims it can redline legal documents based on preferences set beforehand, helping lawyers flag problematic clauses.
This process can save lawyers up to 80% of the time they normally spend reviewing contracts, the startup claims. Expect many more companies like LawGeex in the future as AI improves.
Consulting firm McKinsey & Company says nearly a quarter of lawyers' work can be automated. While that might seem scary, it probably just means legal jobs will get simpler and more interesting. Right now, technology isn't a replacement for everything a lawyer does day to day. And we're a long way off from AI-powered robots squaring off in the courtroom.
Instead, automation can help streamline the dreary and time-consuming parts of lawyers' jobs. And with more and more startups competing for space in the legal world, firms can expect automation to get cheaper and better in the future.
That means lawyers will have more time to spend with clients, on research, and in the courtroom.
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