The legal landscape has undergone many changes throughout the years trying to navigate a rapidly evolving tech-centered world, and the beginning of 2017 will continue to shape law with legal tech trends emerging within the industry. This year, ZBRELLA looks at which trends will be the the ones to change law the most.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
No doubt the most commonly predicted influence on law this year, artificial intelligence ranks number one on our list of legal tech trends of 2017 because it most likely will be the biggest influence on law this year. Between the AI World Conference and Expo, where any AI technology applied to a known problem started at $5 million market valuation, and AI that already has the capabilities to select the correct paragraphs to build a contract, eliminating the need for junior lawyers, AI is a technology to be reckoned with across all boards.
And according to legal tech expert, Sarah Burnett, of Everest Group in London, “professional advice” usually administered by senior lawyers will become far more computationally-based than manually-based, out-performing what a typical human brain can process to deliver more accurate information. AI learns by watching and will assess and identify potential performance problems the more it learns.
AI makes the list of legal tech trends of 2017 for a reason, too: it’ll be here sooner rather than later. The AI revolution in law is officially here, and within the next 5 to 7 years, Burnett cautions the legal landscape will be unrecognizable thanks to AI. And it’s all starting now.
Virtual Law Firms
In 2011, only 3% of lawyers had virtual law practices in the United States (American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report). Comparatively to 2014, 7% of lawyers reported opening virtual law practices, almost a 5% increase in just three years. By last year, almost 10% of solo practices labeled themselves as virtual law firms, continuing the virtual trend strong into 2017 and proving that the popularity of virtual law firms is no passing trend.
In fact, it would seem as though virtual law firms are here to stay in the legal industry, which is why it ranks as number two on our list of legal tech trends for 2017. 52% of lawyers attribute accessibility (or lack of a brick and mortar physical office) to why they prefer virtual law firms, while 40% like the minimal in-person contact they have with clients (eLawyering and Virtual Law Practices Study 2015).
Regardless of the reasons why virtual law firms are seeing an increase in popularity, the numbers don’t lie, and virtual law firms will most likely continue to provide alternative methods to practicing law well into 2017 and beyond with the flexible hours it provides and the ability to maintain a better work/life balance.
2017 will inevitably be the year of the Cloud for legal professionals, and it’s certainly been a long-time coming. Over the years, the legal industry has heavily leaned on the Cloud for anything from billing to time tracking to document storage to all of the above, and 2017 will continue to see the industry through this transformative period, especially as the technology starts to coast into 2nd generation solutions that offer multiple integrated functions.
Hybrid-Cloud solutions that allow firms to partially move to the Cloud while storing other files elsewhere has become a popular solution to help reluctant firms transition at their own pace. Meanwhile, early Cloud adopters have encouraged other firms with their own stories of productivity and success to begin migrating.
From providing lower setup cost solutions to offering ongoing support, continual software updates, and easy accessibility, the Cloud has already fast-become the technology most firms are watching out for. It is only a matter of time until almost all legal firms adopt the tech and make it a standard as opposed to an advantage.
With so many technologies emerging at such an alarming rate, it can be hard to pinpoint the ones with the most potential to influence the industry as a whole. That’s why we hope our list of legal tech trends of 2017 will help refine and guide your focus for the year.
Looking for more information or leadership on any of these trends? A ZBRELLA legal consultant can help strategize with you on a custom plan for 2017.
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