When it comes to the legal tech landscape, the internet teems with lists of predictions and projections for the New Year. Viral “top ten” lists circulate, promising to track watershed changes in technology, legal services, and legal data. While we do not intend to reconstruct such a list, we do want to share our projections for development in three primary categories: legal data, legal services, and legal tech. In short, we project that this year, legal tech and legal data will continue to drive down the cost of legal services and increase consumer engagement, from the corporate world to consumer services.
Legal Data Trends
In terms of legal data, we will likely see increased access to affordable data and publicly available datasets that are already structured and packaged for effective use. This will, in turn, lead to the increased layering of legal data: In-house teams can now access large datasets and overlay internal spend data and closely guarded metrics with outside data sources to develop better legal analytics and business intelligence.
One prominent example of how this is playing out is the elevated use of RFPs. As we noted in our recent article featured in the Legaltech News column on Law.com, “[w]hen combined with legal analytics, RFPs can take on a life of their own.” Companies can use legal analytics to supplement law firm responses to RFPs in order to verify their claims on their cost as well as their success rates in specific types of cases. Companies can also include “wild card” firms in their RFPs as a way to gather even more data to compare law firm rates. In addition to finding law firms with better experience who are not on your typical roster of panel firms, it may also come as a good surprise that these firms are more cost effective, producing long-term savings.
Beyond being able to accumulate more helpful data, new technology allows law firms and businesses alike to gain real-time access to data through APIs. Now, users can access data anytime, anywhere, can gain automatic updates about case developments, and can stay informed without having to do extra work. This is particularly critical in the corporate context, helping companies gather real-time business intelligence without having to rely on a particular software interface to gain relevant information.
Legal Industry Trends
The shift we most anticipate in the legal industry is the continued decrease in the cost of legal services for both businesses and consumers. Alternative legal service providers are on the rise: Companies like Atrium are filling the legal services gap for corporate legal departments, and Legal Zoom is dominating the consumer legal services market.
There is also a continuing push toward what some legal scholars and innovators are calling “adaptive innovation,” a conversation about how law firms will survive in an age of automation. Lawyers are finding ways to differentiate and to redesign the process by which they advise their clients. Movements like design thinking and the work of advocates in Stanford Law’s Legal Design Lab are propelling lawyers to a more creative, innovative, human-centric approach to practicing law. In light of technological changes spurring a paradigm shift in the way that lawyers offer services and address their clients’ legal issues, legal professionals will be forced to continually develop new models for the delivery of legal services.
Through developing new services models, law firms and solo practitioners will also be able to expand their markets by serving millions more Americans in need of access to low-cost legal services. The end result is that the estimated 1.7 million civil legal problems requiring aid for low-income Americans will be connected to efficient, effective, and affordable legal services. Right now, innovators are using scientific experimentation to apply artificial intelligence and other forms of legaltech to the consumer legal services industry – as these developments progress and become more widespread, firms and legal tech companies alike will find ways to create new models for legal services that will dramatically change the legal landscape.
In the legaltech world, we expect continued consolidation and aggregation in 2019 and beyond. There are massive acquisitions taking place in legaltech, as seen with the legal directory site Avvo being acquired by Internet Brands, which owns other legal sites like Nolo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Total Attorneys. The eDiscovery company Omnivere, which was formed through the merger of multiple other e-discovery companies, was also recently acquired by the legal service provider company Driven, Inc. And another eDiscovery company HaystackID acquired the data management provider eTERA Consulting.
As legaltech giants continue to grow and dominate the legal services landscape, machine learning and automation will help attorneys locate and service more clients. Just as massive eDiscovery companies are helping large firms expedite their discovery process, other forms of legaltech can help solo practitioners and small-firm lawyers locate and service more clients. Notably, machine learning technology can help lawyers locate untapped needs in the legal market through classification of case types, party identification, and mass advertising to client niches.
No matter the particular industry or vertical, the key to improving access to and the quality of legal services is automation: That is, automating ongoing, rote tasks like data entry, locating clients, and legal marketing to free up more time to focus on client work. This increased volume of cases, in turn, will allow lawyers to lower their fees, thus attracting even more clients and further closing the access to justice gap.
Driving Down the Cost of Legal Services in 2019
At UniCourt, we are proud to be an innovative leader in leveraging legaltech to improve access to justice. In 2019, we predict that legaltech and legal data will continue to bridge the access to justice gap, drive down the costs of legal services, connect lawyers with untapped need in the market, and serve consumers of legal services more expeditiously, effectively, and affordably. We will be closely studying the legal tech landscape throughout 2019 and look forward to being a part of making legaltech and legal data more useful to lawyers and helpful to consumers.