Top 10 err.. 16 LegalTech Talks of 2021! Now available!

The list is out!  Last year was an amazing one for LegalTech talks and thought leadership.  I presented over 70 times on Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, AI, Workflow, and the Legal Platform.  It was also a fascinating year where edgy concepts entered the LegalTech space, including the Metaverse and NFTs.  In all likelihood, these will continue to flourish in 2022.

If you’re game, you can watch the top sessions from the past year on a huge swath of LegalTech and general tech topics below:

Innovation:

Preparing Now for the Legal Technology Landscape in the Decades Ahead

Innovation in the Legal Industry

Dauntless Assent Into Legal Innovation

Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, DAOs, NFTs, Metaverse:

An Introduction to the Impact of Blockchain on Legal

Blockchain 2.0 Advanced Blockchain – Case Studies and the Evolution

Cryptocurrency Fundamentals

Cryptocurrency, DeFi, NFTs and the Metaverse

The Future of Contracts

Emerging Technology Conference on Blockchain and the Metaverse

Understanding Digital Identity & Its Impact on Legal

Artificial Intelligence:

Breaking Down AI – The Underlying Language and Technology of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence and the Impact of Exponential Technology on Legal

Cybersecurity:

The State of Cybersecurity in Legal

The Dark Web — The Evolving Landscape and its Impact on the Legal Industry

Legal Platform & APIs

Legal Platforms, APIs, and the REvolution of Whizzbang LegalTech

Cloud:

Fundamentals of Cloud Computing

Podcast: The Hearing – Andy Wishart, CPO Agiloft

From the producer… This week, Joe takes a break from legal futurology and tries his hand at being a pub singer. We’re here for it. And so (much to his horror) is Andy Wishart – Chief Product Officer at Agiloft and all round technology guru.

Joe and Andy discuss the beginnings of Contract Express, Andy’s 21 years in legal tech, and the changes and challenges he’s seen along the way. They also chat about the power of document automation, how the legal industry has evolved alongside this technology and Andy’s rather cool career journey.

If you’re one for tech leaders in band t-shirts, Scottish accents (good and bad) or just want to know more about lawtech’s underground karaoke scene, this episode is for you. You’ll also hear some rather excellent efficiency advice too.

Listen Here:

Apple Podcasts – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-84-andy-wishart-agiloft/id1389813956?i=1000536724372

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/episode/7opWHeuPOO8Sjux4WpGstX

SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/user-264672855/the-hearing-episode-84-andy-wishart-agiloft

ILTA’s 2020 Annual Legal Technology Survey

It’s out! In a year unlike any of the 30 previous annual surveys, the 2020 International Legal Technology Association’s (ILTA’s) Annual Survey breaks down the technology transformation afoot resulting from the ongoing pandemic. With insightful data-driven industry trends, this year’s ILTA survey highlights the rapid pivots, swerves, and shifts happening in the legal technology marketplace.

All of us are intimately familiar with the chaos that impacted law firms, employees, clients, and the courts that followed the initial shutdowns in March. What has resulted is a robust renewed interest in tech tools that enable work to continue to flow and ultimately solve client needs. So, which trends floated to the top of legal tech?

Zooming to its zenith, the video conferencing tool Zoom made huge waves. It was the clear favorite for law firms that sought to bring internal and external people together immediately and without much ado. While Zoom struggled with capacity issues and some serious security concerns initially, those fears were allayed over time.

What will be fascinating, of course, is next year’s statistics. Zoom could be a bridge to the video conferencing world, where Microsoft is king. The interoperability suite that Microsoft provides would seem to indicate that Zoom has indeed hit their peak in the legal marketplace. Couple that with industry leaders creating a secure legal ecosystem with the courts that integrates video, calendaring, docketing, and case information all under a strict security blanket, and Zoom might have challenges in the legal marketplace going forward.

ILTA

Another trend brought up in the ILTA survey — one which is cited year after year but was accelerated in 2020 — was cloud adoption. If you have ever been in or seen a server room, you will know its brrrrr affect. Not only do they have a cacophonic hum of a dozen beehives, but they are more frigid than a Minneapolis January morning. If a firm can jettison a good percentage of that infrastructure in favor of an arguably more secure cloud environment, which doesn’t require thermals, it’s a win. To that end, cloud embracing extends to nearly every part of the business, including MS Office, email, VoIP (hosted phones), DMS, case management, eDiscovery, etc.

ILTA

Turning toward specifics of the work from home phenomenon and its impact on the survey, there are several interesting points to raise. Antidotally, I knew several firms that during the height of the pandemic still had their support staff in their office, while others adopted technology. One area of adoption that boomed was Remote Online Notarization (RON); and having recently used RON myself, I was thoroughly impressed. The hoops I jumped through to prove my identity was far greater than the in-person model. To that end, it seems many firms leapt through the rings as well with DocVerify and E-Notary leading the market. Fully 21% of law firms were using these tools, an impressive embrace of tech over in personal interaction.

Another tech tool getting a pandemic push was mobile. Steadily increasing over the years, people embraced their iPad and mobile device much more this year, unsurprisingly. With a broader push by content producers, application developers, and kids, the world is rapidly moving to mobile first. Meaning that at some point, the expectation will be that most work could or should be done via a mobile device.

The next iteration of this will be to jettison laptops and grab ahold of a plug to connect mobile devices to larger screens. Samsung is experimenting with this now via DEX. This could see your mobile device becoming your computer, one-in-the-same. Short of that, you see legal tech applications increasingly built and optimized for mobile devices. This trend will likely continue.

ILTA

Another interesting trend spotted this year was the drop of “security” from the top concerns cited by law firms. While security has long stood atop that list of concerns, it was replaced this year by two doggedly difficult ones: “Change: Users’ acceptance of change” followed by “Change: Managing expectations (users and management)”. That seems to boil down to communication, action plans, stakeholder buy-in, and disseminating information in order to get people on board. An easy task, right?

What does the future hold?

In the coming years, here are three areas that I might expect the ILTA survey to cover in greater detail:

Legal platforms — We are on the cusp of a major movement across the legal landscape in which thousands of legal startups and their well-established brethren have hit critical mass. How can these disparate apps and services be integrated along with appropriate data controls? The hope is to have these applications meet their users on an agnostic legal platform, open to all parties and integrated across both the business and practice of law.

Office impact — With people working remotely for the better part of 18 months, does it make sense to still have an office, and if so, how big? Do satellite offices come into vogue now, and, if so, how does that look technologically?

Virtual reality – What seemed laughable five years ago will be thrust into the spotlight soon. While little discussed, Apple will likely have a VR headset called “Apple Glass” in the next 12 to 18 months. As the bellwether of mobile technology, this will create new avenues to digest, interact with, and expand on legal applications. Imagine Zooming away through an Apple Glass headset and interacting with your avatar clients as if they were in the room, or leading a jury through a crime scene via 360-degree recorded video. This is right around the corner, and my expectation is that you will see this listed on an upcoming ILTA survey soon.

Clearly this has been a year of transformation. Faster than in any of the last few decades, we saw law firms confronted with an existential threat turning quickly toward technology. With this pivot, I would surmise that the future of technology is LED bright within the legal industry, and it will continue to become more invaluable.

Teaching Law With Technology Prize 2020

While the judges deliberated, I gave professors, students, lawyers, and technologists in the UK a glimpse of the technological innovations coming in the near and longer terms and sense of what this could mean for legal advisers.

Blog: https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/legal-uk/2020/10/12/linda-chaddertons-legally-bound-wins-the-teaching-law-with-technology-prize-2020/ 

LegalTech Report Card and Predictions 2020 to 2060 – ILTA Conference 2020

I had the privilege of being selected to report on how ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) did on their predictions from 2013 up to today, during their 2020 ILTA-ON Conference. Even more fun, predicting what technology and LegalTech will look like from 2020-2025, and then going out to 2060.

Remember back when we had ‘Law Firm 2020 predictions’? In the first part of my ILTA-ON presentation, we will go ‘Back to the Future’ reviewing past predictions to see what came true and what we got wrong. Then, we will blast into a journey of what LegalTech looks like in the next five years. Lastly, for those who get motion sickness, grab your Dramamine, because we will take a 1.21 gigawatts ride, shooting into the future. We will predict what the technological and legal landscape will look like in 2030, 2040, and into the Singularity! Great Scott!

Part 1 – Jump Ahead (9:17): Grading the Law Firm 2020 report from 2013: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=558

Part 2 – Jump Ahead (22:55) Predictions for 2020-2025: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=1377

Part 3 – Jump Ahead (40:17) Technology Predictions 2030, 2040, 2050, and 2060: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=2419

Podcast: The Hearing – Chris Mohr – VP for Intellectual Property and GC at SIIA

This week we talk privacy, piracy, and intellectual property. Before the lockdown, I sat down with Chris Mohr, VP for Intellectual Property and GC at Software and Information Industry Association.

Working at the heart of the US federal government in Washington DC, Chris tells us about life as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill and how he navigates the challenges posed by different global approaches to intellectual property. He also talks about the intersection between IP and privacy law and the Constitution, as most data is effectively speech for Constitutional purposes, there are fundamental conflicts when people’s privacy rights are at stake.

Chris and I chat about where AI might be taking us and what IP implications there may be, as they ponder whether machines are legally allowed to be inventors.

Listen on Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-56-chris-mohr-software-information-industry-association/id1389813956?i=1000484584104

Listen on Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9wb3J0YWwtYXBpLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20veG1sL3RoZS1oZWFyaW5n/episode/aHR0cDovL2F1ZGlvLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20vcmVwb3NpdG9yeS9hdWRpby9lcGlzb2Rlcy9FcDU2X0NocmlzX01vaHJfbWl4ZG93bi0xNTk0Mzg4MTc0NjkzNTY5MTkzLU16QTNNamd0TlRBd01UQTFOVFE9Lm1wMw?ved=0CAIQkfYCahcKEwjQgPy9qsrqAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQBA

2020 cloud update—acceleration to platform

Originally published on Legal Insights Europe.

By Joseph Raczynski

Cloud adoption has increased steadily over the last several years since we last forecast an Increasingly Cloudy outlook for law firms in 2017. The most recent industry data, ILTA’s 2019 Technology Survey finds that 72 percent of those surveyed across the law firm landscape will expand their use of Cloud based technologies in 2020. That is up from 62 percent in 2016. Based on my own observances, sentiment around the technology has clearly changed over the last decade from skepticism to general adoption.

ILTA Annual Technology Survey – 2019

The once thunderous clap of resistance has subsided, but according to the ILTA survey, a few subtle headwinds persist. The two areas of concern have grown for some law firms despite the overall uptick in adoption; cost and performance. The infrastructural easing for technology professionals moving to the Cloud and not having to maintain hardware and software, including the pesky but massively important patches, is an enormous benefit. The primary issue, the cost of converting that IT function to the Cloud has created some consternation, the survey finding cost concerns up to 50 percent from 37 percent four years ago. I will dive into the likely rationale for concern and the promise ahead in a moment. Performance anxiety is up slightly year over year, but still hovers around 30 performance historically. What has improved in overall sentiment is security and reliability. Both progressed as people understand the intrinsic positive benefit related to Cloud acceptance.

ILTA Annual Technology Survey – 2019

A deeper dive in the Cloud

The Cloud is a nebulous term. To fully understand what the ILTA survey captured, let’s dive a bit deeper into the technology. Most often people think of the Cloud as a place to store files. This is certainly true and is likely the dominate use case for most law firms. Having secure, universally accessible files in the office or remotely is imperative, now more than ever. The tools and services enabling files everywhere has proliferated, which may have exacerbated the concern surrounding cost. Based on my experience, multiple factors are at play. Increasingly, legal technology vendors are offering their version of their particular service ‘in the cloud’. If a firm has 30 products, all offering a Cloud solution, frequently add-on fees for additional storage can accumulate, generating trepidation in the Chief Information Officer.

One new solution to this cost dilemma is starting to emerge. The standard rule is to choose trusted, very well-established providers. In the Business of Law, operations space, Elite 3E would be an example. Storing information off-site can create agita on face value for anyone, but storing it with a lesser known, cheaper alternative, could prove risky. In addition, another baseline perspective states that it behooves a firm to mirror data with at least two different Cloud hosting companies for redundancy.

With that as a backdrop, the proposed emerging solution, still in its infancy, leverages a Legal Platform. Platforms have existed for ages and in many forms. Simply put, they create an ecosystem or environment that allow people and business to participate if they abide by rules, meet standards, and ultimately this confluence creates a network effect for the community. These platforms are new and developing in legal. In theory, law firm applications downloaded from a ‘Legal App Store’ would sit inside this platform and be able to use the same datastore. This could reduce the number of data Cloud providers and the implicit cost associated with them. The concept here is that a law firm would have a Platform where all practitioners and administrators would work. With Single Sign-on (SSO) each user would have access to all permitted applications and tools, as well as the underlining data. The ability to drive workflow and share data securely, all leveraging various components of Cloud technology would simplify and decrease overall Cloud cost.

Beyond merely storing files, several other areas of Cloud use will increase in the future. As more firms start to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, the ability to use processing power hosted in the Cloud should proliferate. Instead of having massive computing power, as with a large numbers of expensive computers inside the organization, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) could be leveraged in the Cloud. What this means is that an IT professional could spin up and command access to X number of computers processing power capacity in seconds—meaning they could rent processors in the Cloud to crush large volumes of data (what AI does) very quickly and inexpensively.

The irony of IaaS and moving to the Cloud is that in-house or contractor-based System Integrators (SIs) are increasingly important. These are individuals who oversee the vast array of Cloud infrastructure that will only grow over time. Whilst an initial benefit of Cloud was fewer IT employees, the complexity of the web of Cloud connections is buoying specialty positions to support this new frontier.

The shift to Cloud technologies has happened. Law firms will increasingly adopt a more robust utilization of these services. With expanding integration across the Legal Platform, applications driven by interoperability will likely enable streamlining of some Cloud based datastores, increasing security, flexibility, scale, and hopefully making legal services easier to use.

Part 1: Legal Geek’s Uncertain Decade: Debating the future of the legal industry

Originally published in AnswersOn.

By Joseph Raczynski

It’s the questions on the mind of every legal professional: What will legal life look like after the COVID-19 pandemic passes? What will this “new normal” actually be? And more specifically, if courts close and clients are shuttered, what will half the world’s lawyers do?

In the first of a three-part global webinar series, The Uncertain DecadeLegal Geek sought to shed some light on these questions, bringing together two of the most respected names in the legal industry — Mark Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic, and Prof. Richard Susskind — to delve into how law firms, courts, and the general population are facing unprecedented legal challenges in the current crisis environment.

Cohen began with a historical perspective about the COVID-19 crisis, citing four previous transformative events after which the legal community bounced back, with one exception. The global financial crisis that began in 2008 permanently altered the way law firms function and interact with clients.

Such transformative events force law firms to reconsider the traditional model of work, birthing a “new era of legal operations,” said Cohen. Historically, what stood out is what failed to change, he explained, adding that law schools and the courts returned to normal, greatly unaffected by the financial crisis.

Why is now different?

Now, however, the reckoning has arrived. In a matter of weeks, law schools converted to online education, something they had resisted for more than a decade. Courts too, have begun to adjust adapting latent technology that had emerged from “other industry use” to their new reality. “It simply needed to be turned on,” said Cohen, adding that ultimately, these older components — physical classrooms, some in-person courts, and in-person client meetings, are no longer necessary.

talent
Mark Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic

It is “a bright light being shined on how we can do things differently in legal,” he said.

When asked how much of the physical nature of the practice of law do we really need now, Cohen pointed out that the entire legal workforce became a remote workforce almost overnight and in general, it seems to be working.

What is the impact to industry components?

The bellwether for change is the general counsel, Cohen continued, adding that GCs have already been doing more with less for a time now — truly being “proactive enterprise defenders.” Now, all legal service providers and vendors need to look toward the GC and senior legal teams because they are “living law’s future.”

Cohen then broke down the industry components into four main areas:

Consumers — Individuals in need of legal counsel are driving change. There is increased access to information and platforms where data is available, and that’s driving process. People will now make decisions based on competency, metrics, and expertise as data accessibility is universal and process is increasingly coveted.

Academia — The universities will need to rethink their curricula. Education is a lifelong pursuit, and newer programs will need to incorporate many disciplines beyond the classics, including marketing, technology, and business.

Legal Service Providers — Cohen said for legal providers, the main theme is an emphasis on customer-centric models, more than ever before. While new solutions will be data-driven, it is about vendors learning and understanding more deeply about the customer and thereby driving more value to them.

Courts — In the short term, “courts have been crippled,” said Cohen. He then brought up a concept using the Chinese word for crisis — Wéijī, explaining that crisis has two meanings in Chinese, “danger” and “opportunity”. The courts and associated lawyers find themselves in Wéijī at the moment. The courts now are paralyzed, of course, but they could seize the opportunity and transform the entire industry with intelligent adoption of technology and process.

On the state of the market

For his part, Prof. Susskind views the current legal market conditions in several phases. Initially, the legal industry had to mobilize to enable work to be produced. Currently, he sees this lockdown phase as a test which provides an inordinate amount of valuable data. In his grander vision, we have an impromptu Proof of Concept at hand, Susskind observed. “We should be capturing as much data as possible and seeing which innovations could work going forward” during this lockdown, he explained. Eventually the third phase, emergence will come; however, this will be complicated by a bifurcated marketplace of individuals empowered to return to the office and those forbidden from doing so. Fundamentally, legal work be done differently going forward, and face-to-face interactions may no longer dominate, Susskind said.

While most managers in the legal sphere are focused on the here-and-now, Susskind argued that people “need to be looking at the long term and asking themselves to what extend have things really changed?”

susskind
Prof. Richard Susskind

For example, Susskind noted the absence of recent artificial intelligence chatter and believes that the urgency of AI might will die down for the next 18 months. Since AI is less tangible for most day-to-day operations, it makes sense that it could fade as a focus for law firms and the courts.

Indeed, all the current attention in the legal industry surrounds basic technology that enables job function. While the future of people working from home with basic technology has arrived, it is built on a “house of cards” and “stuck together with bubblegum,” stated Susskind. The legal industry will endeavor for practical secure and permanent work from home (WFH) solutions; and therefore, the more nebulous, dreamier innovations that might on day again push the limits of the law and technology are on hold for now.

The call for remote courts

What was thought to have been a 10-year plan to move the world’s antiquated court system to a remote one actually only took a few weeks, said Susskind. Now, he said his preoccupying thought remains: Is a court is a service or a place? And if the latter, do we really need that place?

To that end, courts around the world have morphed into three possible types: Audio, where some of the events are either entirely or partially access by telephone; Video, which mirrors audio in its use; and lastly, Paper, which still requires submissions to the court be in written form and the judges respond in kind.

The early evidence of these new court systems are very positive. To the surprise and skepticism of many, “it seems to be generally working,” said Susskind, adding that people were distrustful of this shift, as we have seen little change on this front in more than 150 years.

Rapid transformation is upon us, Cohen and Susskind agreed. In a matter of weeks, the legal industry experienced more change than it had in previous decades. The light is bright on how things can be done in legal, but much more data needs to be digested to see the resulting outlines of the industry’s still murky future.

Kleros.io (a Thomson Reuters Incubatee) Publishes Handbook of Decentralized Justice

Kleros.io is a blockchain startup which Thomson Reuters incubates in the Legal Technology space.  They recently published a book about dispute resolution using blockchain technology.  I had the good fortune to work with Federico Ast, Founder & CEO on a chapter for the book.

Please feel free to download a digital copy here:

Kleros’ Handbook of Decentralized Justice available for download NOW!

PDF: https://lnkd.in/ehA-5VF 

ePUB: https://lnkd.in/epCFpu2 

MOBI: https://lnkd.in/e26PxQc

Here is a section from my conversation with Federico:

***

One of the cores of our work at Kleros is researching the prospects of legal tech and the impact it will have on the legal business in the coming years. Joseph Raczynski, Thomson Reuters’ resident legal futurist is one of the select few we always love discussing.

Joe has a wide view of the legal industry and the business and technology that will affect it in years to come. Let’s dive into the conversation!

What’s a legal futurist, what’s the job description of that?

There is none. I think they’re still working on that in some dimly lit back room. It comes down to this – I’ve spent a lot of time on the core pieces of technology, either building computers, working on networks, white hat hacking systems and delving into how businesses processes work by studying sociology and believe it or not, nature, which inevitably impacts how we interact and develop.

I have an undergrad in economics and sociology, so I hope I understand the business world, but also believe I have some thoughts on how humans think, how we work as groups. The grad school education formalized and enhanced some of my thoughts with an MBA, and a Masters of Science in e-commerce.

I tried to spend my time on what people are doing in other businesses, in the financial world, in the medical world, and then pull that into what is happening in the legal industry.

Sometimes the legal profession might be a tad further behind the curve with what we see in other industries, so what I can do is peer into how others are working and parlay that into what may happen for legal.

As a practical example, I was mining Bitcoin in 2011 trying to understand how it works. Most of my friends and colleagues asked ‘what is this, what are you doing?’ They thought it was pointless, and the jury was out in my head about it, but I found it very intriguing, so I continued to explore it.

If you play around with these technologies before most know about them, at very early stages, you can get a better picture of what is going to happen in the future with different industries, the legal industry being one of them.

The next thing to take a gander at is memory on organic materials – imagine saving all of your firm information to a tree? Seems bizarre, but at some point these things will happen.

You don’t have a background as a lawyer, but in business and social science. How did you become interested in the legal industry?

I see the legal industry as one of the spaces with the greatest opportunities. You know this is growing because of all of the startups that have infiltrated the industry. There are so many startups that are looking at the legal space right now, because there are two parts to it – the business of law and the practice of law. Both of these are ripe for great efficiency across the board.

These startups are looking at different aspects of these two facets, thinking of how to make it more efficient, to make it a bit easier for the clients to better serve themselves, or to work with law firms and have law firms better service their clients.
I see AI and blockchain leading the way – the AI algorithms making things faster and more efficient and blockchain saving this information and hopefully making it so that the trusted third party is now a computer network.

The perfect example of this is what you guys are doing with Kleros. I honestly think this is one of the best examples out there in terms of how we can create better efficiency in a “trustless” environment, working with blockchain to be able to save information, secure it, but also have people leveraging this tech to create a better environment for all parties involved in a dispute.

 

Since you mention Kleros, what caught your attention about our project?

What I find the most fascinating about Kleros is the idea that you are going to leverage blockchain as a space in the ether that allows people to file a complaint, process that complaint, and eventually resolve it, using a system based on blockchain, and wisdom of the crowds.

Crowdsourcing enables the expansion of the pool of people making the decision. This makes a lot of sense, as it can greatly enable efficiency and reduce costs in a large number of dispute resolution processes.

The economic model that aligns individual incentives with honest decision making is a great innovation within the legal industry.

 

How do you see a new technology like blockchain interacting with traditional government courts and regulation? Are legacy legal systems going to adapt to blockchain or are they going to be disrupted?

That is a great question and I think the answer depends on where you are in the world.

In time, I think blockchain will absolutely disrupt the way the government interacts with information and the way they verify it. I was in Dubai some weeks ago and met with government officials working on a full-on blockchain enabled verification system that, when decisions are made, puts everything on the blockchain.

Anyone will be able to look up that decision with ease and they want to have this up and running within the next 18 months without having to go through a proprietary company. In Dubai, it is the government who is pushing law firms in this direction. The government is leading there.

In the United States, on the contrary, you find that traditionally it is the corporations that lead change. Law firms tend to follow, then eventually, a little bit further down the road, you may see the government starting to get involved in the space.

Depends on where you are and how this works, but clearly some changes are afoot in the next five years.

 

What about AI? How is it likely to impact the legal industry?

It’s a funny one. All we see in the news is the AI and how it’s going to disrupt law firms or the legal industry in general. There is so much talk about this every single day, how the robot attorney is coming…

I had the good fortune to meet the pre-eminent legal technologist, Richard Susskind last year in London. One thing he says is that, in the short term, we are probably overestimating the power of AI, but in the long run we are probably underestimating it. We’re at a stage that AI is in the news and most of the attorneys, partners, and managing partners of law firms that I meet ask – is this really happening?

It’s clearly cresting atop Gartner Hype Cycle, similar to what is happening with blockchain, there is a lot that may happen with both of them. On the AI front, you are seeing companies that come along and have very smart ideas about how they can change a section of how the practice or business of law works.

For example, let’s say there is a merger between two massive organizations, both have 50,000 employees. One of the core things they want to look at are the employees they have for both organizations to see if they mesh well. In order to do this, they need to review all 100,000 employment contracts identifying golden parachute language… For example, if anyone got a $50 million bonus if the merger took place.

Currently, many global law firms do this due diligence. They put 100-200 attorneys on it by having them read every single contract and making sure that those documents are standardized – not containing that golden parachute.

Increasingly there are algorithms and associated programs on the market that go through all the contracts, looking for all the standard language, kicking out those contracts that don’t have the common phrases or terminology. Those kick-outs are then reviewed by a human, resulting in a massive increase in efficiency and less people hours.

These startups who are creating these applications, are pushing the bar in legal. They are devising better ways to get the job done using AI – in an incremental way. Will we see a robot attorney in the next few years? No. But these types of tools leveraging some AI will ramp up quite considerably across the board.

 

What is the result of all this? In the world of AI and blockchain, in fifteen years, say, what’s the place of lawyers in all this? What does the legal system look like?

Ten years out, and these are just guess, all of the lower tier work that we traditionally see law firms doing, be it the e-discovery, some of the contract work, all of that will probably go away.

E-discovery now still has a lot of human eyes looking at a lot of these documents, after a first pass that maybe a computer completes. In time, that will probably be all computer. The documents that are out there right now, the normal contracts, that will all go away.

It’s that very top level where you need human imagination, human thought, collaboration that will be the furthest out to be disrupted. But there are a lot of attorneys that are doing just day-to-day work, canned phrases that you use to build up that document, a lot of that stuff will be impacted in the next, say, five years. In ten ten years, I’d say it’ll definitely be impacted. That’s the direction that I personally see it going in.

Law firms that don’t change the way in which they work will probably go away.
Lastly, what we are starting to see in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, is that the Big Four of auditing and accounting are starting to take away some of the business from law firms.

Not only can they now handle law firm work, they can handle everything else – they have full-on accounting, the business processes, all of that is going to be fulfilled by these massive organizations. That will absolutely impact law firms.  This will come to the US soon, it is inevitable.

 

What advice would you give to a law student preparing for this new world?

Don’t practice law. (Laughs) I’m kidding.

I think it’s still a fantastic profession which requires a great deal of talent and unique thought processes. The advice that I actually gave to a few people who were interning here this summer, who were looking at law school: spend as much time on understanding the basics around law.

If your passion is around helping people and the love of law, go to law school. In preparation for your studies look at some of the startups like Kleros and try to work there to see what a lawyer will be doing in the future. Understand the growing relationship between technology and the law.

Clearly law rules the roost, but technology will continue to play a role in how it is practiced, and frankly what will be done by the future attorney.

I think companies should bring in a few aspiring attorneys to help them understand where we are going as a society, as a business. The future student should work with startups, work with bigger companies that are involved with e-discovery or anything in the legal technology world to help them get an understanding of how the technology works, how the vendors work and how this stuff may impact the way they practice law. Getting a full-rounded perspective of where the world is heading is essential – especially if you are dropping 300K USD on education.

One last thing I’ll mention about this is – I don’t know who originally thought of this concept, but there is a phrase called a T-shaped attorney. It’s literally like the letter T. Across the top of the letter T, those aspiring attorneys are learning everything they can about the business and the practice of law. They are learning a bit about project management, maybe they’re learning a bit about how to code or how vendors work.

More and more we are hearing about attorneys learning to code in different languages, so they have a better understanding of how that works. Understanding how vendors work, how startups work in the legal tech space. That’s the top of the letter, and the deep part, the extension of the letter T is the practice area they’re in, litigation, automotive practice or any else which they know almost as an expert. We are really talking about a well rounded attorney.

What books or other resources can you recommend to people to read and start learning about the future of law?

Some of the best books out there about legal technology and what impact its’ going to have are by Richard Susskind, most are aware of him, but if you haven’t seen or heard this gentleman from Scotland, he is on tour frequently, he talks about amazing things which should be happening in the legal industry.

He has a plethora of works out there. I spend a lot of time on YouTube in my off hours, looking at what people are thinking, what they’re talking about in many different industries, clearly within the legal tech industry as well, so that’s a great resource. Twitter has a plethora of great discussions that are happening as well.

Shameless plug, you can always check out my blog at https://JoeTechnologist.com, there’s always one or two hopefully decent ideas there that could be something worthwhile.

A presentation of Kleros with some extra flavor given by Joe Raczynski

Modern Law Magazine: Embarking on an Era of Abundance in the Legal Industry

Here is my latest post from Modern Law Magazine.

By Joseph Raczynski

Over the course of the next five years, the legal industry will be flush with opportunity. While much of the rote legal work will be done by automation, producing a period of interstitial angst at law firms, burgeoning areas of technology necessitating legal counsel will flourish.

As a brief preface, I will bypass the normal discussion surrounding how tools are making lawyers more productive and law firms more profitable. That is a given. These tools are plentiful; including research services that coalesce information intuitively tools that comb through millions of documents seeking relevant words; or, artificial intelligence (AI) enabled applications reviewing 10,000 contracts in hours compared to months required when done manually. While these applications constantly improve, they are becoming commonplace for law firms. This article’s focus is preparing for the next legal transformation for law firms—prompted by technological advances.

A near trite concept at this juncture, technology is advancing at an exponential pace which is creating incredible possibilities in many industries—especially within the legal industry. One example which typifies this acceleration is a recent creation at MIT Labs with ‘AlterEgo’.

The white device below wraps around the ear, hugs the lower jawline, and rests below the lips. It contains four sensors that can hear your internal thoughts. Yes, AlterEgo can read your mind. Practically, without verbalizing a word one can communicate with Internet connected devices, like a TV, a computer, or a car. A conversation with another person wearing AlterEgo could occur without verbalising a word. This is a single example, of a possible myriad, which exemplifies our current era of swift technological change.

alterego

AlterEgo, MIT Labs http://news.mit.edu/2018/computer-system-transcribes-words-users-speak-silently-0404

With this sort of mind boggling technology available, it raises the question, what will the legal landscape look like in the future and how can lawyers and law firms adjust to this sort of rapid change?

Algorithms

Specific instructional processes (if/then statements), known as algorithms, have existed in computer language for decades. Over the last five years algorithms have matured, but perhaps more importantly so has the flood of data—widely considered the new oil. The synthesis of the advanced algorithms and the ability to process that data has ushered in new industries.

One such industry is driverless cars. These vehicles are already being used around the world, and algorithms are a main operational feature in the car’s computer driving programme. This area of technology, alone, will be a significant boon to the legal industry. The implications of rules, regulations, laws, and ethics in this space are immense. Lawyers will need to be trained, or at the very least be far more familiar with how various algorithms work. Who decides culpability when driverless cars go awry? How do we navigate the legal ethical dilemmas of onboard computers deciding between hitting a child or an elderly person crossing the street?

autocar

Politico Europe https://www.politico.eu/article/should-a-driverless-car-kill-the-kid-or-the-retiree-future-of-driving/

 

Algorithms are a platform and will permeate most applications, propagating throughout most of our lives. Lawyers will likely need to understand their uses and implications, in the near future, in order to provide adequate representation to their clients.

Biotech

Over the last decade, engineers have deciphered how to modify the immune systems of bacteria to edit genes in other living organisms, like algae, small mammals—and now humans too. Over the last month, Chinese doctors claimed to have created the first designer baby by enabling one to be born which is resistant to HIV, by genetically alerting the embryo. CRISPR, pronounced “crisper”, allows scientists to easily manipulate genes far faster and cheaper than ever before. Soon there will be significant work for law firms in this space. The implications are vast beyond how an IP lawyer would practice. A multitude of various specialised practice areas will now join the IP lawyer. When new genetically modified humans arrive, smarter or with greater athletic ability, opportunities will bloom for many other practice areas. This will also impact the insurance industry, as two classes of humans will evolve creating different playing fields. Will genetically modified humans receive better insurance rates, because they are less susceptible to disease? There are countless other legal impacts with CRISPR and gene alteration impacting multiple areas of law and business.

Internet of Things (IoT)

With as many as 50 billion devices connected to the internet over the next ten years, we need lawyers able to understand the legal ramifications of this rapidly expanding technological reach. The depth and breadth of these interconnected gadgets cannot be underestimated, including devices connected to our brain, such as AlterEgo, to every appliance in a kitchen, car, phone—which will soon be a MR (Mixed Reality) headset. Within this scope, countless questions of data ownership, privacy, regulation, and intellectual property will arise. Education of how these devices work and what information is being gathered, perhaps surreptitiously, will all need to be understood by lawyers.

Deep Fakes

One of the more distressing developments of the last few years has been the creation of videos known as the Deep Fakes. The Deep Fakes are very realistic videos of someone famous, but are made by superimposing a computer-generated face on the real video and swapping out the audio with something nefarious. (Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLoI9hAX9dw ) Lawyers will need education and access to tools to help verify what is real and what is not for litigation purposes as well as transactional, as people increasingly make claims using video attestation. We will soon get to a point where we cannot trust video documentation and lawyers will have to contend with these issues.

Blockchain

The ’trustless’ nature of a distributed ledger will undoubtedly have an impact on the legal industry, since transactions will be put on a blockchain. Increasingly there are whispers of a legal blockchain controlled by law firms in a consortium. This will impact most areas of legal practice.

In the transactional practice, self-executing ‘Smart Contracts’ will be something everyone working in the legal profession will need to understand. Ethereum, the first blockchain platform to popularize the idea of the Smart Contract allows for people to code ‘if/then’ statements onto the blockchain or database with ease. Here is a scenario that uses a smart contract on the blockchain in the legal transactions.

A lawyer writes a will for their client. The will stipulates that upon the parent’s death—their two kids must be married, respectively, in order for them to receive a share of the estate. If one kid is married and the other kid is not, the kid that is married receives all assets. For simplicity the assets are all liquid in this example.

The will is written and saved to a blockchain. It is in an immutable state, and the only people that have access to this document is the lawyers that drafted the will and her client. Once it is on the blockchain in a codified state, the smart contract starts checking every day through a trusted source, called an oracle (affirmed public record), to see if both parents are alive. One day the computer identifies that the parents have both died. The computer jumps to the next task to determine if both kids are married. Through another computer call to that oracle, it determines that one kid is married and the other kid is not, and subsequently sends 100 percent of the liquid assets to the kid that is married. This is a self-executing smart contract on a blockchain as shown below.

smartcontract

JoeTechnologist.com https://joetechnologist.com/2018/11/15/forum-magazine-blockchains-promise-verifying-value-one-block-at-a-time/

Drones

A drone superhighway is coming. These are roadways in the sky where drones will be able to operate, away from the likes of Gatwick airport and other important safe zones. The ’droneification’ of our delivery systems will alter city landscapes. Lawyers will be called upon to interpret zoning laws, environmental conditions, insurance issues, labour law, privacy matters, liability issues, and construction law—as more people build landing pads off their flats. The age of drones will create a beehive of activity for law firms.

Cybersecurity

By nearly all accounts Cybersecurity is the top concern for corporations and law firms outside of profitability. Data leakage and hacks are rampant the world over. Ransomware will likely continue for the next several years at least. According to one government official I recently met in the US, the world is simply waiting until the first significant cyber event which takes down a country’s infrastructure—such as the electrical grid, banks, or water systems. Law firms have rightly responded to the rapid increase of cybersecurity considerations over the last eight years. Increasingly lawyers will need to better understand the dynamics of cyber-breaches for their own operation as well as client needs. The opportunity for law firms is immense in this space from litigation to advisement of mitigation measures for cybersecurity.

How Law Firms Can Thrive

A renaissance in the legal industry is ahead, after a bit of discomfort based on some traditional legal work fading. As some of the rote work legal work dissipates in the coming years, an abundance of legal activity will commence in the emerging landscape driven by technology innovation. What I have discussed with law firms around the world is how they plan to prepare for the changes ahead.

  • Firms are beginning to create highly customizable technology education plans for their lawyers. They are inviting specialist from the newest industries: AI, blockchain, automotive, cybersecurity, IoT, and biotech. At a minimum, these required firmwide classes promote a basic understanding of each technology. The goal is for lawyers to be conversant in the technology when speaking to prospective clients. The plan creates a pathway for deeper levels of education if their practice necessitates it, which will be likely for many.
  • We are also seeing the early stages of more technical lawyers emerging. Traditionally, an IP lawyer carries this torch, but this is changing. Recently a blockchain consortium disclosed that lawyers make daily inquiries about how they can code blockchain enable technologies. Certainly not all lawyers will need to code, but those that have a proclivity for it will be better positioned for success.
  • Law schools around the world are pivoting. They still hold fast to the core curriculum, but quickly programming around emerging technologies is taking root. Law schools are connecting with startups—creating a synergy between the nascent legal minds and innovation. Universities are also partnering with some of the traditional legal sector vendors to aid students in understanding various technologies, processes, and applications for more efficient work with the business and practice of law. Advanced institutions are pushing students to understand algorithms, code, and become further enmeshed in technology.
  • Law firms are also sponsoring hackathons. The goal here to figure out better ways to improve process, which does not always have to be technical. Legal tech incubators have also started to proliferate by vendors, but also among some law firms.
  • When gaps in technology exist within a law firm, tighter partnerships with companies who can assist on the legal technical aspects surrounding the mentioned fields will start. Boutique firms will arise with a focus on these technologies to help their clients, but also serve as consultants to the larger mid-sized firms without expertise.
  • There is little question that litigation will thrive going forward in each of these disciplines. Lawyers that become more technologically savvy will have a decided advantage in obtaining business.

 

The era of abundance in the business and practice of law is on the horizon. The technological shifts that are occurring all over the world are setting up law firms, who are prepared, for bold new opportunities. One of the most important changes in the legal industry will be a need for lawyers to be educated on new technologies. As AI and blockchain become mainstream, those platform technologies will impact nearly every industry—meaning nearly every practice area lawyer will have to understand the basics of those technologies. The firms that embrace these changes afoot, will be best positioned to thrive.

 

Images from article: