The disruptive forces of technology in the legal industry
A perfect storm made of waves of digital disruption are aiming straight at law firms
The law industry is the second largest professional sector. It is also a changing industry. The spread of new challenges, along with some healthy and necessary competition, are a ‘digital storm’ demanding new cultural standards.
Increasingly lawyers, consumers and corporate buyers are all heading toward more affordable access to legal services. Organizations which are not law firms offering quicker, and cheaper, online legal advice and more work being done remotely are reshaping traditional competition.
All this has been gradually creating new values in the market, disrupting the sector and demanding new business and mental models.
A digital storm with a human direction
“The future of legal services will be a world of virtual courts, Internet based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs, and new employers for lawyers”
– Richard Susskind
One of the most urgent and interesting forces shaping the provision of legal services is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Although the profession revolves around human interaction and so, inevitably, retains a human element, AI technologies are transforming the industry by providing for virtual assistants and ultra-sophisticated research tools.
Artificial Intelligence in law firms
An example of artificial intelligence today is IBM’s experimental Watson project based on natural language and cognitive computing. This artificially intelligent system gets smarter each day and is able to predict the outcome of court cases, assess legal precedents, as well as give reading suggestions when preparing a case. The aim, of course, is to reduce time and cost.
Leveraging technology and keeping an open mind to changes, encourages exploration of new ways of enlarging the market by seeking new values and improvements. It is also offers the means to reduce risks – of both errors and abuse.
So, managing this change must start with the consideration of how this technology affects our strategies. Here this could include organisational structural change, technology platform change (including issues like 24-hour access) and charging structures. For the client it may be helping brief their counsel, or how they involve their lawyer in their strategic planning. All these changes potentially impact work styles, culture and information bases. Thus they call for good Change Management with a skilled Change Manager to engage with the parties to ensure we remain competitive, optimise results and our return on investment. In a future diary I will explore the issue of ingrained habits and how we facilitated the adoption of new habits.