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If there’s one indicator that legal tech has finally hit its stride, it’s that investments in legal tech reached over 1 billion dollars by the end of the third quarter in 2019. Furthermore, as mentioned by Bloomberg Law, “Several significant mergers and acquisitions also were announced in 2019, another sign of legal tech’s maturation as a market sector.”
But, developments in legal technology don’t stop at just investments and the stock market; In fact, 2019 was a pretty big year for legal tech. We’ve identified 20 of the most notable legal tech developments in 2019. Take a look below:
Years ago, lawyers generally scoffed at cloud-based services and rejected such use within their law firm - especially when it came to any sort of cloud data or file storage. Safety was a big concern when it came to keeping any type of protected client data online; It still is, but cloud usage has become more embraced by the legal community as of late. Yet, while cloud usage is increasing within the legal community, it’s still slow-going. ABA reports that cloud usage only increased from 55% in 2018 to 58% in 2019.
While legal tech mainly started with legal research tools, such as Westlaw, the past year has seen a number of legal tech startups based on other services coinciding with practice management. Remember that investment growth we started this article off with? It used to be that the majority of legal tech investments were spread across a small amount of larger tech companies; But, that wasn’t the case in 2019. A Bloomberg Law article explained, “In 2018, half of the billion-dollar figure was due to one $500 million investment into Legal Zoom. This year, a wider array of companies benefited.”
You could say that legal tech developments have become the best friend of solo practitioners and small law firms. Why? Due to the development of smart devices and apps that support lawyers without offices and lawyers on-the-go better than ever before. Legal professionals are no longer tied to their offices and are free to conduct business and meetings from anywhere conveniently. In 2019, more than 95% of lawyers were reported to use mobile smartphones for firm-related tasks, and 49% reported the use of tablets.
There’s been a real emphasis on continued legal education recently. Changes and requirements for legal technology have been established, with states like North Carolina mandating in 2019 that all local state lawyers devote one hour each year to continued legal education.
Over the past ten years, legal practice management has become more prioritized within law firms; This has a lot to do with the fact that law firms need to maximize profits and streamline processes as much as possible to maintain a competitive edge these days. In response to demand, practice management products and services have grown tremendously. One example is Clio, one of the largest legal tech companies, who raised a noteworthy 250 million in investments just in 2019 alone.
The legal industry is becoming more and more client-focused; Meaning services and pricing are implemented and offered based upon the needs of clients and affordability. The development of personability within the legal space is important and can ensure solo practitioners and small law firms can continue to compete with other options available to clients, such as DIY legal services. According to a 2019 Clio report, however, there is still much room for improvement; During their study, the majority of law firms contacted failed to accurately or quickly respond to client contact attempts.
Networking is invaluable within the legal community. With developments such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools, lawyers and law firms are finding it easier than ever before to connect professionally on a national and global scale. According to a 2019 ABA article, legal networks have continued to increase and grow since the eighties. Two hundred fifty thousand lawyers make up 20 different legal networks spread out throughout the world now.
By generating and paying attention to data, law firms can better strategize and plan for growth by looking at trends and seeing what works. According to a 2019 Law Technology Today article, “Successful law firms rely heavily on data to provide the answers and guidance they need to generate more revenue.”
Within the legal sector, artificial intelligence (AI) primarily comes in the form of eDiscovery; eDiscovery has allowed law firms to largely step away from time-consuming paper and physical file discoveries and step into utilizing more electronic forms. A 2019 investment report showed that AI, in some form or another, is being used by the majority of law firms.
Compliance and archiving eDiscovery software company Hanzo’s CEO, Keith Laska, recently participated in an interview with Law.Com, stating “Literally our entire industry is at [the start of] an evolution inside the enterprise, and the evolution is about elevating the compliance and legal profession, which is primarily a ‘don’t worry about it, they can fix it after the fact’ role to one that is super strategic and part of all the conversations.”
In 2019, the ABA released an article titled “Virtual Is the New Law Firm Reality.” The article proceeds to speak with several leaders in the legal industry and outlines reasons why virtual law is an essential development in the legal industry; Reasons include less travel, lower overhead costs, larger patient reach, and less stress.
In 2018, Forbes predicted that customer relationship management (CRM) and corresponding software would see a significant increase in use and priority. According to Ackert Inc.’s annual CRM study, 78% of law firms used CRM in 2019.
In the ABA’s annual tech report for 2019, 26% of law firms who participated stated they had experienced a breach in security that year. An additional 19% of firms who responded weren’t sure if they had experienced a cybersecurity breach; This means the number of breaches could be higher than reported. These numbers definitely indicate there is more room for improvement in legal cybersecurity practices.
Lawyers and law firms have definitely realized the impact that social media can have on their success in the industry and with clients. In 2010, only 17% percent of law firms were using social media and carrying a presence; By 2019, it was reported that 80% of law firms had a social media presence - a tremendous growth.
Forbes predicted that 2019 would see a marked increase in companies focused on eDiscovery services and software. Forbes doesn’t seem to be off the mark with that prediction; In 2019, the eDiscovery market had a 13.73 billion dollar valuation, which is expected to grow to 23.67 billion over the next six years.
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