By Casey Kuhlman, CEO and Co-founder of Monax
With no industry immune to the transformative effects of advanced technology, the legal profession has had a predictably significant 2018 – seeing developments in processes, regulation, and collaboration as a direct result of new industry technology. Similar to businesses of any nature and practitioners from a myriad of sectors, lawyers have had to adapt in order to survive in their new environment. The welcomed news is that the biggest technological advancements will make the everyday jobs of lawyers easier, make their practices more efficient, and make their results more rapid. Despite fears that big tech will replace people, I don’t anticipate this happening any time soon. Legal tech will instead help to make the legal industry flourish and give lawyers the tools they need to be even more effective at the services they provide.
Below is a summary of the most significant technological transformations of the legal profession to watch out for — and be an early mover on — this coming year.
Perhaps the fastest growing area of legal technology in 2019 will be that of artificial intelligence (AI). We are already seeing the adoption of computer programs capable of taking away many of the monotonous, administrative tasks that lawyers once had to spend valuable time performing, for example reviewing terms and conditions, or the tedious analysis of discovery documents. AI can sort and analyse enormous amounts of data at an unprecedented speed, leading to faster discovery. AI can also make valid predictions of actions following thorough analysis of data. I anticipate that this trend will expand enormously in 2019, with those who have already made the move beginning to see huge improvements in productivity and long-term results.
In the next year and beyond, the ways that data is processed, stored, and used in the legal profession is going to dramatically shift. While a few years ago, cloud storage applications were seen as a security risk, within the last year they have achieved widespread recognition as the most advanced, effective, and secure method of storage and organisation, with any reservations quickly disappearing.
Particularly since the introduction of GDPR, legislation data protection will continue to be of supreme importance to the industry. In 2018, we have seen corporations such as Facebook, Google, and British Airways, who would have once been thought of as reputable and transparent, damaged by scandals involving data misuse, irresponsibility, or hacking. As a result, technological advancements like data encryption, multi-factor authentication, disabled editing, and watermarked documents are going to rise in popularity even more in 2019.
Legal professionals at every level are responsible for the management, negotiation, finalisation, and tracking of contracts, all of which will be transformed for the better from 2019 onward with increased adoption of these newer methods of data storage and securitisation. Online, purpose-built contract tools will become more prevalent than ever. Many practitioners have already begun to leverage e-signing software, but 2019 will likely see even more of these solutions rising in the markets with wider ranges of ability. Contract management systems can now be utilized for the entire life cycle of legal documents, from requesting to negotiating and authoring to approval, representing the next stage in evolution.
Stemming from this will also be the upcoming adoption of template management systems. Authoring contracts manually can be inefficient for creating consistent, standardised practices across a law firm, for example. It can also be time exhaustive and lacking in version control. Advanced template management software ensures best practices are employed, facilitating document building on clean templates, and sharing and storing them securely.
Blockchain and Security
With mounting issues and awareness of cybersecurity, one solution becoming more and more prominent in the legal field will be that of blockchain technology. Most recently heard about in relation to cryptocurrency prices, blockchain technology has enormous potential outside of digital money that is only beginning to be realised. Data and information on the blockchain is completely traceable and impossible to hack. That’s because every piece of data on the blockchain exists on a chain of nodes, each one verifying the other, and any hacker would have to alter all of the nodes simultaneously in order to achieve any kind of fraudulent activity – which is virtually impossible. Beyond security, this advancement will be pivotal for lawyers for other reasons too, including it’s creating of ‘smart contracts’, in which legal documents will be verified and stored with authenticated, traced signatures and chains of custody.
Looking forward into 2019, the legal profession is on the brink of evolution. We’ve come this far with legal technology and seen proof points and possibilities. The next year will be defined by the mainstream early movers and everyday legal practitioners who will transform their daily tasks, making them easier, faster, and more efficient. 2018 was the year of innovation, but 2019 will be a year of application, agency, and advancement.
Casey Kuhlman is the CEO and Co-founder of Monax, a contract lifecycle management tool which allows consumers to easily procure lawyer-tested agreements and stay in full control of their business contracting.