The law is dynamic, and so is the industry that has evolved around the law. With new technologies and legal decisions come entirely new forms of law, and equally important changes in the way those jobs are done.
These industry insiders give us insight into the trends shaping the immediate and long-term future of the legal industry:
1. Tim Hewson, co-founder and CEO of USLegalWills.com
“I think estate planning has seen a dramatic change over the last decadeor so. Dozens of websites offer online estate planning services that have become more a more sophisticated. Between them, millions of wills and other estate planning documents have been created, but not one of these websites is offered by a law firm. Over time, lawyers will only be offering estate planning services to a small niche market of high net worth individuals looking for advanced tax planning. Consumers will increasingly be moving to online services that are offered by tech companies, not law firms. The commoditization of these legal services will extend to amicable divorces, business incorporation services, property transactions and many other services that were previously th domain of traditional law firms. I have yet to see any attempt to modernize services as a response from the legal profession.”
2. Nance L. Schick, Attorney/Mediator at The Law Studio of Nance L. Schick
“Awareness of inequities in the development and leadership of our institutions will continue to pressure leaders to address racism, sexism, classism, and sexual harassment. Distrustful of the justice system, many parties will turn to private conflict resolution services, such as mediation, online dispute resolution, and restorative justice.”
3. Ryan Steadman, Chief Revenue Officer at Zero
“The shift to automation is evident in today's legal technology industry and email will finally catch up to other workflow systems to make lawyers more productive and profitable thanks to AI. By harnessing machine learning and natural language processing technology, critical information that exists inside of every email will be analyzed to help prioritize what really matters and automate administrative tasks like filing and time tracking. Mobile devices will automatically capture email interactions with clients-recovering billable time that used to be lost. The device's accelerometer will even detect when you're working or paused. Manual time-entry will become extinct.”
4. Bryan Porter, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria, Virginia
“Over my 18-year career, I have noticed a marked increase in the frequency with which we used technology to solve crimes. The advent of cellphones and the internet provided new avenues of investigation. The proliferation of cellphone cameras and their counterparts, surveillance cameras, have led detectives to frequently find video that captures part of a crime on tape.”
5. Philip Kabler, Professor at the University of Florida, Partner at Bogin, Munns, and Munns
“The #1 trend observed by this lawyer is the well-prepared client. Just as lawyers have access to online resources, so do consumers. Having done research about their situations, clients arrive at a lawyer's door ready to interview concerning, and shop, timing, cost, and even potential outcomes. Lawyers must intentionally identify individual or business contacts' pre-needs to convert a prospect to a client. This requires attorneys to become proactive listeners. Consumer preparedness based upon advance due diligence, both of which will undoubtedly increase over time, are trends to be addressed by lawyers.”
6. Zachary Strebeck, Attorney at the Strebeck Law Firm
“Automation of the industry is a trend that will continue to shape the industry, from chat bots to answer basic questions, to document automation for common legal documents.”
7. Brian McGovern, Executive Director at Mitratech
“The increase of analysis of unstructured data will make determining the value of legal services providers transparent. Innovators in the space are already using it to compare performance and make early case decisions. Large corporate legal departments and law firms with large spend will either build or buy this technology as it emerges and becomes cost effective. The work will begin in higher volume, lower complexity work and will evolve to high complexity, low volume matters.”
8. Jim Wagner, CSO at Seal Software
“Outsourcing and unbundling of legal services to gain cost leverage are now the expectation, not the exception. More sophisticated clients are now looking at both traditional law firms and alternative solutions and asking in a very serious way – “how are you using technology to fundamentally improve your services?” The technology available to enhance the practice of law is both ubiquitous and effective, so end clients are resetting the bar in terms of expectations for what it means for outside legal professionals to be good partners and providers.”
9. David Carns, Chief Revenue Officer at Casepoint
“Historically, in-house legal departments have operated reactively to support existing corporate needs, rather than acting proactively to correlate with corporate strategy. This concept is now being challenged completely. Corporate legal departments are being restructured in a way that is more strategically focused and facilitates their ability to align with corporate objectives. Legal departments are a necessity for every corporation. When they operate proactively to improve processes and enhance operational efficiency, legal departments can add additional value to the corporation itself.”
10. Nick Galov, Hosting Expert and Content Manager at TechJury
“In my professional opinion, I see 2019 as a year of the rise of virtual legal offices. The development of technology has enabled us to access information from any place in the world. As big companies tend to expand quickly, this leaves them with less time for meetings. On the other hand, they need reliable, legal assistance. We are already witnessing some virtual legal offices, but I think that the expansion is yet to come. These will help save time and money, plus it will open a whole new global field of work for legal practitioners.”
11. Jay Arcata, Lawyer and VP of Client Relations at BX3 Capital
“In addition to the Big Four’s rise to prominence in this space, the legal industry is also seeing an increase in the number of alternative legal services providers (ALSP) in the market. ALSPs provide many of the services that law firms traditionally provided—but at a fraction of the cost. These include document review, discovery and e-discovery services, outsourced paralegal support, temporary lawyers and staffing and other such services. By leveraging technology and low overhead, ALSPs can deliver legal services in an efficient and client-focused manner. According to the “2019 Report on the State of the Legal Market”, which is jointly issued annually by the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law School and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, the ALSP market grew to $10.7 billion in 2018, with this trend expected to continue in the future.”
12. Bryan Lawson, Director of Marketing at Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law
“The M&A market exploded last year and vigorous dealmaking activity appears to be continuing into the summer. However, several indicators (higher expectations among sellers, transactions taking longer to close, general burnout) point to the M&A window closing soon—and a larger economic downturn ahead.”
13. Michael Elkins, Litigation Attorney at MLE Law
– Talented, top-tier lawyers are leaving the big firms and either opening their own firms or banding together to form small, efficient, modern boutique firms.
– The age of the app is in, the age of the legal assistant is out. Apps are popping up everywhere — from client portal apps., to mobile timekeeping to filing documents from an iPhone — the job of the legal assistant is going the way of the CD.
– The theme for 2019 is efficiency, and clients don’t want to talk to a
gatekeeper, or pay for one. They want to reach out and talk to their lawyer in a moment’s notice.”
14. Josh Taylor, Attorney and Lead Content Strategist at Smokeball
“One major trend that I see shaping the legal sector in 2019 is the push towards more independent lawyers. With the rise of technology, it may not be necessary to join a large firm, making your own hours has become increasingly popular among the working force and independent lawyers are able to make remote work a more acceptable idea with new innovative technology.”
15. Lance J. Robinson, Owner and Lead Attorney at The Law Office of Lance J. Robinson
“The paperless trend is having a huge impact on the legal field today. Courts and government bodies all over the country are starting to go paperless, and many lawyers are feeling the pressure to do the same. This can be a big transition for government entities and law firms that have years upon years of paperwork to transfer, not to mention all of the employees who require new training. There is also a host of databases and other programs that are becoming new standards when it comes to filing and research. These changes should facilitate easier access to critical information.”
16. Kim Wright, Cutting Edge Law
“Here are some persistent questions that will hopefully continue trending until they foment real solutions: What are the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic impacts of the law and court system (a movement called Therapeutic Jurisprudence)? How do we help people resolve their divorces amicably so they can continue to co-parent their children (Collaborative Practice & Mediation)? How do we address the deep dysfunctions in the legal culture that leave lawyers at risk of suicide, addiction, and depression? How do we address the bias in the court system? How do we prevent conflict before it gets out of control and lands people in court?”
17. Clayton Hasbrook, Attorney at Hasbrook & Hasbrook
“Client communication keeps adapting. More and more of my clients prefer texting instead of phone calls. A lot prefer email. At some point, I think clients will expect to be able to access their case file) records from home, and this is available with a lot of case management providers. Hopefully faxing will be a thing of the past, but a lot of firms and medical providers still prefer it.”
18. Lin McCraw, Owner of The McCraw Law Group
“Continued business-friendly political climate will continue to degrade the trial by jury for civil conflicts. Arbitration will continue to expand and collective litigation will continue to be restricted under an increasingly business-friendly high court. AI, generic legal forms and advice and other web-based self-help will continue to expand and flourish in 2019. For true experts in their areas, this will create additional opportunities to take advantage of and to clean up the mess created by folks using these self-help remedies poorly. The reach of the internet and social media will allow these same sub-specialists to expand their footprint regionally without having a lot of capital to invest to do so.”
19. Pieter Gunst, CEO and co-founder at Legal.io
“Specifically on the pricing piece, we’re starting to see increased competition in legal service delivery from non-law firms. This includes the Big 4 accounting firms (rolling out legal offerings) and technology companies. At the same time, more and more companies are hiring more in-house attorneys (they’re more efficient) and creating legal operations teams that report directly to the CFO. In short, enterprise customers are demanding that law firms be more transparent with pricing.
Law firms are taking note of this trend, and responding. In 2010 Drinker Biddle created the first Chief Value Officer role. In 2014 Greenberg Traurig became the first law firm to create a Chief Pricing Officer (CPO) position. Since then, 20+ big law firms have created similar positions.”
20. Candess Zona-Mendola, Senior Trial Paralegal at The Lange Law Firm
“I think that the paperless and digital office is shaping our industry. Instead of walking into court with a stack of paperwork, many lawyers are now opting for a smaller stack and documents on their computer/a USB drive. I remember the days in trial where an ELMO was all that was used to show exhibits. Now, with trial software and the ability to show high definition videos (complete with the ability to manipulate them live to a jury) technology has transformed how we roll into court. Depending on the courtroom, exhibits can now be presented in front of the jury on computer screens, instead of blowing them up to human-size on a poster board. This enables legal professionals to carry more important documents and information without the expense and having to deal with the hassle of paper documents.”
21. Sun Dahan, Associate Director at the Law Office of Matthew J. Kidd
“The trends are those allowing lawyers and firms to operate in a leaner way
while better communicate with their clients.
– Technology – lawyers are working remotely, sharing documents faster, filing legal requests online and can do work faster using automation.
– Partners – clients don’t just want to pay legal bills, they want to know that their firm or attorney are a part of their success: their business
– Outsourcing legal work – there’s an increase in the number of of legal professionals choosing interim work as a career path and this has changed legal staffing. Small firms can now do more work with contract attorneys..”
22. Raees Mohamed, co-founder and Partner at RM Warner Law
“As most law firms have made the shift from paper to electronic methods of data storage, cyber security and data protection has become a top priority in the legal profession. Connecting with clients and the community through social media is also a growing trend. Law firms that have a positive social media presence have more opportunities to reach those Internet industries and create their own unique niche following.”
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