Legal Tech Trends 2023.
As we begin the New Year, we see numerous reports predicting the IT Trends for the coming year. Whilst these are informative, interesting and sometimes entertaining in their own right, they tend to be quite generic in nature and often overly high-level and abstract, which leaves organisations in particular sectors questioning the relevance to them.
With this in mind, I have been conducting some research into the Tech Trends for the Legal Sector in 2023, since both Fusion IT and our sister brand Expedite Law have key clients in this area, and can reveal the following salient points.
Legal Software Optimises Work
Software will continue to be the smart way for Law Firms to use the resources within their practice. Software will be the enabler for teams to optimise the way they work. By making knowledge easily accessible, lawyers can focus on their added value instead of repetitive and redundant work like browsing files for a precedent or clause they have written before. This will be key, since clients will be unwilling to pay for any inefficiency.
Focus on Must Have Solutions
Whilst there are a plethora of legal software solutions available, the Recession will separate the ‘nice-to-have’ solutions from the ‘must haves’ and it follows therefore that Legal Firms wishing to invest in technology will favour tools with a quick Return On Investment versus long implementation cycles.
Legal Document Assembly
It is predicted there will be growth within the area of document assembly and document automation tools, delivering improved performance and efficiency. And, if Lawyers can clearly see these benefits, it will drive adoption of Legal Technology at a faster rate – so demonstrating the impact of a technology solution in a clear manner will be key for vendors and developers.
Legal Project Tools
Project Tools within a broad range of different legal areas, will continue to develop and gain attention during 2023. As Law Firms focus on improving their project management capability, due to increased project complexity in their work, they will seek to take advantage of digital tools to improve communication and collaboration.
Cyber Security for the Legal Sector
Businesses across all sectors are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. This applies in particular to the Legal Sector. With an increasing number of technology solutions, more integrations, and also people working from a vast amount of locations and networks, it is plausible we will experience increased cyber risk in 2023. Cyber security should therefore be front-of-mind this year. This might involve working with IT security standards such as ISO 27001, preventive cybersecurity measures such as Next Generation Firewalls, Multi-factor Authentication and Conditional Access, or investing in even better surveillance like MDR (Managed Detection and Response) and encryption tools.
Efficient Use of Existing Tools
In 2023, it is suggested Law Firms will take even greater advantage of existing tools and use them more efficiently. For example, Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, which is used by many clients and law firms, has untapped potential and several features have not yet been explored. The same goes for other systems within legal technology. Will we take advantage of more capabilities that already exist? In a time of recession, this seems logical.
Legal Delivery and the Client Journey
Legal delivery will become a critical area for technology to focus on. What this translates to is technology providers need to discover the client journey within the legal firm. Essentially the technology providers need to ‘map’ the up-and-downs of the way the law firms interacts with clients and cases and, in so doing, provide great insight and a ‘journey map’ for the integration of the right tools and methods for the future. This ‘journey’ starts with the regular processes of finding and onboarding clients and capturing the right data at the right position in the journey, and continues with the use of such data for controlling and predicting workload, costs of solving problems and predictions on the outcome.
One of the most exciting developments will be the use of Smart Drafting. Smart Drafting is a category of technology that extends the value of document automation and clause banks by combining them and adding AI (Artificial Intelligence) which can review a database of contracts in real-time and extract relevant clauses allowing Users to add these into a contract as they are drafting. Hence, it is predicted we will see more automation around drafting, with initial drafts being produced by machines after a human provides factual prompts. Of course, these drafts will then be heavily edited by lawyers – it is important to note that even with the advanced technology, the legal industry is NOT heading in a direction where lawyers are replaced by machines. But research suggests lawyers who will thrive in the future are those who embrace technology and understand its potential to improve the way they practice, the way they deliver legal services to clients, and to optimise the quality of work they do.
Replacing More Manual and Repetitive Tasks
In 2023 it is suggested legal technology is most likely to be deployed in areas of work which are overtly manual and repetitive. With themes and problem areas identified, for example, in workflows around work intake, document drafting, contract management, or task tracking. Once the most common pain point for your team has been identified, Law Firms will be able to focus their initial efforts towards digitisation on this use case and identify from there the type of technology that will have the most positive impact on their legal practice.
Legal Software Accelerators
Growth is predicted in layered or plug-in solutions that enhance or extend the experience and productivity of legal Users by complimenting existing tools. These, we shall call them ‘Accelerators’, are focused on completing legal tasks/processes quicker and to a higher standard whilst keeping the User in their familiar native environment. It should be noted our sister brand Expedite Law offer a number a key Accelerator products.
Legal Scenario Thinking
‘Scenario thinking’ will be impacted by technology solutions. This involves technology informing the contract process and telling a Lawyer what they must write in a contract. In addition, with the rise of smart contracts, some have claimed that the software developer will replace the lawyer. The survival of the fittest (dev/lawyer) will depend on who is the best scenario thinker. Just like software code, a contract is basically a compilation of IF-THEN scenarios. Ideally, in the near future legal tech will assist lawyers in their scenario-thinking skills. Good lawyers can analyse a contract and comment on the clauses that are in there, but the best lawyers also notice the clauses that are not in there. That is the major risk of working with contract templates or drafting a new contract based on a previous one – something may be missing. Legal tech should assist lawyers in noticing these gaps and bring clarity to the story the parties may ‘live’ during the execution of the contract. Such legal tech would at the same time be an excellent basis for contract management once the contract is signed. For example the platform would track the status of the execution, follow the paths described in the contract and the variables that take place and guide the User of the contract to the next step they need to take.
Legal Contract Consistency
Another area of growth will be the use of technology to ensure contract consistency. This consistency takes many forms, ranging from correct cross-references between articles of the contract, consistent use of (capitalized) terms and avoiding synonyms, to making sure at any cost that the scenario described in article 5 on page 3 of the contract tallies with the scenario in article 52 on page 36 of the contract for example. Any lawyer who is training and reviewing junior colleagues today would be satisfied with an intelligent spelling and grammar check doing part of the job for them. Every lawyer with that task would be delighted if AI (Artificial Intelligence) could also assist in discovering inconsistencies and specifically Catch-22 scenarios in a draft for review.
So there you have it – some predictions for Legal Sector IT Trends!
It would be remiss of me at this stage not to point out that both Fusion IT and Expedite Law are on-trend with many of these predictions and would be the ideal partner for a project related to the above.