As law firm partners and associates return from their holiday vacations and reminisce about last year’s successes, the casual discussions will transition to anticipatory predictions for the upcoming year as speculations are bandied about. 2017 saw myriad advances within the field of law, some easily foreseen, juxtaposed with others that weren’t even on the legal radar screen as the year dawned. Undoubtedly, the new year will also provide its share of predictable innovations, along with some surprises. According to the experts, here’s a list of the top 3 potential legal trends as 2018 kicks off.
2018 Legal Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Most of us are familiar with Apple’s AI creation “Siri”, and her quick responses that range from endearing to downright creepy. As the acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) grows all around us, it’s evoking both apprehension and fascination. Many of us simply don’t understand how AI works, but are now exposed to it daily. And, the legal profession is feeling its proliferation more and more too.
Basically AI means that computers can now think independently, disseminate information and make decisions more effectively and quickly than can our brains. In a nutshell, computers are able to smartly communicate with other computers sans human operator input. In the field of law, AI innovations for 2018 will usher in:
- Expanded use of AI algorithms to improve contract reviewing & work efficiencies
- AI implementation to review legal invoices
- Legal research & analytics more efficiently being conducted with AI assistance
- AI and “bot” applications that more accurately predict case outcomes
- AI-enhanced attorney hiring recruitment, screening and interviewing
As the use of AI expands during 2018, lawyers will unquestionably be forced to embrace this rapidly-changing aspect of their practices.
2018 Legal Trend #2: Blockchain Technology
No one in the law profession could have anticipated the major upheaval that blockchain has created worldwide this past year. Many legal consultants identify blockchain “crypto currencies” like Bitcoin and Ethereum as the most transformative force to hit the legal arena in recent history. Law firms globally are jumping on the blockchain rocket and holding on for dear life.
That’s logical, as blockchain directly impacts, or will soon impact, the essential day-to-day business operations of many firms’ corporate and financial industries clients. Currently, blockchain has the potential to be even more transformative to the practice of law than the aforementioned AI. As 2018 unfolds, here are some ways that blockchain will transform the legal profession:
- The introduction and acceptance of blockchain-based legal technologies
- Creating an entirely new attorney specialty area within the field of law
- Facilitating the need for open source technology, legal & regulatory standards related to blockchain
- Impacting the way global law firm contracting & payments are conducted
- Factoring into free trade and corporate contract negotiations & the contracts themselves
- The need for legal oversight within the global financial services industry & how it operates
- Offering litigation services for blockchain transactions & disputes
As 2017 draws to a close, the tsunami that is blockchain is changing the world, and it’s a topic that most assuredly will be near the top of law firms’ “to do” lists as a new year dawns.
2018 Legal Trend #3: Enhanced Legal Analytics
Legal analytics are used to produce actionable information that improves outcomes and increases efficiencies while further giving a law firm or individual attorney a “leg up” on their competitors. Today, legal analytics are of course delivered using computer models and software applications. In tomorrow’s world, the aforementioned AI will make this resource even more powerful and effective. To survive in the modern and ever-changing law profession, especially for firms with a global presence, legal analytics afford an edge.
One example of a legal analytics provider is Lex Machina, a platform-based company that delivers litigation analytics tools within a number of practice specialty areas. For years they were known by lawyers for their widely-used intellectual properties analytical software. After being purchased by LexisNexis in 2015, Lex Machina began expanding its legal analytics portfolio to include antitrust, bankruptcy, employment, commercial litigation, product securities and product liability case support. As the dust settles on another year, legal analytics will continue to be a powerful tool in the hands of attorneys who are looking for an advantage.
Top Legal Recruiters Know the Hot Trends of 2018
Without a doubt, all of these new technologies will significantly change the legal landscape during 2018. And, the three- AI, blockchain technology and legal analytics- will overlap with one another in the hands of law firms all over the world. In addition, elite legal recruiters will also be using these innovations to enhance the attorney screening-to-placement process, including exciting career positions within the new legal specialties covered above.