This post is part of our new Legal Influencer series where we interview the world's leading legal experts to get their take on the state of the legal industry, the top trends to watch for, and what the future holds.
The following is an interview we recently had with Nicole Black, Lawyer, Author, Journalist and Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase.
1. How has the legal industry evolved in the past 5 years?
NB: Changes in technology, the economy, and the impact of globalization have dramatically affected the legal industry by increasing competition. The provision of legal services has necessarily been shaped by the shifting expectations of legal clients, requiring law firms to change with the times in order to compete. This sudden shift in consumer expectations has dramatically increased competition in the legal services space and has had an astounding effect on the delivery of legal services. For evidence of this, you need to look no further than the huge success of LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and similar services. Unfortunately, while many law firm leaders fully understand that rapid globalization and technological changes are affecting client expectations and needs, they remain shortsightedly focused on making internal changes designed to increase short-term revenues rather than focusing on meeting client demands in the long term.
“This is a strategy that is destined to fail. It's a digital and mobile world and lawyers can no longer ignore the vast societal changes that are occurring.”
Lawyers need to acknowledge these structural alterations and figure out how to practice law, and profit, in the midst of this massive change. Law firms that fail to do so are doomed to fail in a new world economy by insisting on practicing law as if it were business as usual.
2. What are the top legal technology trends you're seeing?
NB: The practice of law in 2017 is markedly different than it was even a decade ago, in part due to advances in technology. That’s why lawyers in many jurisdictions now have an ethical obligation to understand and stay on top of changes in technology (with 28 states now requiring it). Technology has affected all aspects of our culture, including consumer expectations and the way that business is conducted. Because of the mobile and cloud revolutions, we now have instantaneous access to information, resulting in legal consumers who are more knowledgeable, more selective, and more demanding. Online payments are now the norm and consumers have come to expect more for their money, including quick answers to their questions.
✅ “Because legal consumers now expect 24/7 access to case-related information, the use of secure client portals, often built into law practice management software, is on the rise” 👏
This is especially so in the wake of the release of the recent ABA ethics opinion, Opinion 477, wherein the ethics committee concluded that using unencrypted email may be appropriate for routine or low sensitivity communications, due to “cyber-threats and (the fact that) the proliferation of electronic communications devices have changed the landscape…it is not always reasonable to rely on the use of unencrypted email.”
3. How will AI change the legal industry?
NB: The next legal technology frontier is undoubtedly artificial intelligence, with new AI legal software products popping up every day. Many of these programs have the potential to displace administrative assistants, paralegals, and entry-level lawyers — or, at the very least, will replace some of the more mundane tasks undertaken by lawyers in the day-to-day practice of law. While we’re still in the early stages of AI technology, one thing is clear: the potential for change is incredible. But the timing and actual adoption of AI software into law firms is very much up in the air. Nevertheless, all signs point to AI having an indisputable impact on the way that law firms – both big and small – will function in the not-so-distant future.
4. How will blockchain change the legal industry?
NB: It's unclear whether Blockchain or Bitcoin will change the legal industry. Because Bitcoin is an emerging currency that is increasingly being used by consumers, it's definitely worth keeping an eye on. This is because as the general population begins to use Bitcoin more often, potential legal clients may expect law firms to accept this type of digital currency.
“Another reason for lawyers to familiarize themselves with how Bitcoin works is because it may soon begin to affect certain practice areas” – 👌
For example, lawyers who handle securities law or financial litigation matters may find that their practices are increasingly impacted by Bitcoin.
5. What's the future of Law?
NB: Unfortunately I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't predict the future of law. But one thing I can say for sure is that the practice of law will be very different in 5 years than it is today. Globalization and technology are already making their mark and their impact will only grow over time. The times they are indeed a-changin' and it will be exciting to see what the legal profession looks like in the coming decade as the pace of change accelerates and increasingly impacts the delivery of legal services.
About Nicole Black
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, which provides intuitive, easy-to-adopt legal practice management software. She is the nationally-recognized author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authored “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authored “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson West treatise. She writes a regular column for The Daily Record, Above the Law, and Legal IT Pros, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile and cloud computing, and internet-based technology. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.