The legal profession is transforming. Almost a quarter of the work traditionally done by lawyers can now be automated by technology. But this recent lean on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is trickling down to law firms and law schools, and both firms and graduate programs are struggling to keep up with technological advances. Natural language processing (NLP), for example, scans and predicts what precedent documents will be relevant to a current case. Voice dictation assists in writing legal briefs and collaborative video software streamlines communication for teams of lawyers and between lawyers and clients.
This tech injection that’s (positively) disrupting the legal profession is partly due to a mind shift in how we view law today. Law firms operate more like businesses than ever before, outsourcing tasks once given to first-year articling students.
How do firms stay relevant in a rapidly-changing legal landscape? How do they get in front of trends and steer the future of law in an age of technology?
It starts by understanding the human players on the stage: millennials.
Though mocked for being “lazy” and “entitled” (raked across the figurative coals by an older generation), millennials now run the world. Of the 37.6 million Canadians that kept the gears turning from coast to coast in 2020, 8.3 million of them were millennials.
Millennials do things differently. It’s not that they’re lazy or entitled. It’s that the “shortcuts” they take are brazenly efficient in a way that makes those who have honoured the procedures of the past and performed tasks in time-consuming, people-centric (face-to-face ways)…stubbornly uncomfortable. Millennials use technology to achieve the same ends. But they remove some of the traditional touchpoints that slow the process down.
They can video chat from Starbucks; they don’t go for grand boardroom meetings. They trust virtual. They use phones for texting, not talking. They use the internet to scan websites and social media channels. They like technology, and they like flexibility. That rigid billable lawyer hour that anchored the Accounts Receivable department for hundreds of years doesn’t work for them. They don’t care as much about cufflinks or shiny mahogany furniture or shaking hands. They appreciate remote access options and platforms that cater to their self-service wants—at any time—including responsive feedback and online forums. Biannual reviews won’t cut it for millennials. And so, systems must adjust to this difference.
Millennial lawyers will participate in modern law-based communities that share insights and make referrals. A few years ago, these communities popped up on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. But “law social” has refined. Lawyersmack, still in its infancy, networks lawyers in a secure space that provides a secure virtual watercooler where lawyers brainstorm with other lawyers worldwide and share ideas (on law-based topics or otherwise). It’s a place where lawyers talk legal issues, and legal news keeps lawyers up to date on channels ranging from #constitutional to #intellectualproperty to #smallfirm.
Law is moving into a new era of discovery that gives smaller law firms a competitive edge. The old era was about paper documents in paper file folders in metal filing cabinets. The more recent era combined paper-based processes, email, and digital documents (saved on hard drives). But the future era is one of eDiscovery. It’s about the data explosion—which should be seen as an opportunity. Electronic discovery, such as litigation, investigation, and requests under various governmental acts, is conducted in a fully-electronic format. And it is shared on the Cloud.
Before the age of eDiscovery, “big law” tapped into a vast amount of money and invested in expensive hardware used by a team of high-salary consultants. Behemoth firms are still amortizing those investments and feel dedicated to them more than smaller, more agile firms who never got to join that club. eDiscovery opens up innovative resources like predictive analytics and AI on the Cloud, setting the stage for small firms to go toe to toe with goliaths at a fraction of the cost (for firms and clients).
To stay current, firms must surf the eDiscovery wave and take advantage of the doors that virtual technology opens. The day of virtual trials—where judges, jurors, lawyers, and witnesses participate using virtual reality—is not far off. Drones will record the scene of an accident in real-time, providing jurors with at-location, 360-degree footage (which will comply with new evidence standards and evidentiary rules).
These changes come with an increased need for advanced levels of technology management and fortified, monitored security. Outsourcing this modern tech to a Managed Service Provider that specializes in IT specifically for law firms will be a wise investment—especially since the exabytes of data that will be stored and shared will be subject to strict industry compliance protocols.
The future of law looks very different, and moves a lot faster than law as the world has known it for so long. Managing a successful firm into tomorrow means accepting adaptability and embracing the new tools that technology is already bringing to the legal profession. This notion isn’t novel to law firms or analysts who predict that overall spending on technology will increase by more than 50% between 2015 and 2030. Half of that expenditure will be on information-technology services.
There’s never been a more exciting time for small Canadian law firms empowered by what the future of law holds. These firms not only encourage millennials (or any generation) to communicate via online law communities; they actively investigate the possibilities that eDiscovery and virtual reality open up to their cases and trials. And they understand the value of managing innovation with an information technology partner that contributes to growth.
Discerning Toronto firms lead the way into the future, outsourcing IT to Managed Service Providers who stay ahead of modern law’s unique challenges. Since 2008, Vertex has been the trusted IT partner for Toronto law firms, providing industry-best specialized IT support for lawyers. Vertex protects lawyers with secure, reliable cloud solutions that bring firms under protocol compliance from PIPEDA to provincial law societies. Vertex helps you manage and grow your law practice hassle-free, at one fixed price, delivered by our team of dedicated IT professionals right here in Toronto.
Ask us about Vertex Cloud Desktop for Law firms (legal software in the Cloud), Managed IT solutions for law firms (a suite of services, from strategic planning to unlimited support directly from our Toronto office), and our custom solutions that support your firm’s practice management software, workflow, and culture.
Vertex is ahead of the technology curve, so you can focus on capitalizing on what new tech means for your firm. Contact us today about Vertex’s specialized IT support for lawyers.