Future Technology & Upcoming Trends in the Legal Industry for 2021

By: Danielle Chazen
Future of legal technology

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Trends in the legal industry have seen a shift toward digitization. Over the last few years, large law firms across the globe are massively investing in legal-tech solutions to gain a competitive edge. That increase has most notably shot up in the last year due to the novel coronavirus. Legal professionals that have transitioned to work-from-home environments are especially dependent on technology to drive efficiency and continue operating.

Legal professionals who were once averse to technology, are now becoming more open to its benefits as they recognize new ways to streamline arduous tasks and increase efficiency. Be it through auto-generating transcripts, using AI software to forecast litigation outcomes, documentation automation, or other uses, there are many ways to reap the benefits of technology.

Embracing legal technology trends

The legal industry has seen significant digitalization in contract review, due diligence, legal research, e-discovery and document automation. Tools such as client portals and intranet-based collaborative platforms are becoming more sophisticated by the day. With the legal process outsourcing market projected to reach 35.9 billion by 2025, the growth is down to the increase in alternative legal service delivery models, as well as ‘virtual’ law firms. Here are a select few legal tech trends taking the industry by storm.   

1. Remote depositions – the new norm?

At the beginning of 2020, in-person depositions were the usual means of obtaining pretrial testimony, and although remote depositions were possible, they were far and few. Now, in light of COVID-19, legal market trends took a giant step toward remote depositions. Today’s new norm has flipped 180 degrees with now over 85% of depositions provided by Esquire Deposition Solutions being entirely remote. As 2020 comes to an end, this new remote norm raises questions about what the future will hold post-COVID-19.

2. Automating due diligence

One of the primary tasks that lawyers need to perform on behalf of their clients involves conducting arduous research on facts and figures. This due diligence process is essential to advising clients on all of their options and the life-changing actions they should or shouldn’t take. This important and comprehensive investigation requires total attention, but due to the time-consuming and tedious nature of the task, and the late hours that lawyers often work, lawyers are prone to mistakes when conducting these lengthy checks. After all, they’re only human. 

Kira Systems is just one example of a software company using technology to make lawyers’ lives that little bit easier. The software performs accurate due diligence reviews by searching, highlighting and extracting relevant content for analysis – and it claims to do all of this up to 90% faster. Workflow automation reduces time spent on repetitive tasks, allowing staff to focus on jobs in more need of human attention. It’s no wonder that legal market trends are pushing in favor of automation.

3. Document automation

Drafting documents is all in a day’s work, but it isn’t exactly the most thrilling part. Legal technology trends involve some forward-thinking law firms that are now gaining a competitive edge by using automated software to draft documents. Something that would usually take days to be manually crafted by a mere mortal can now be generated in a matter of minutes.  

PerfectNDA is an example of one company using technology to shorten the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) process. Its NDA templates are cleverly selected by AI according to someone’s specific scenario. There’s even a technology that can complete the entire patent application process with little-to-no human intervention. All in all, we’re seeing trends in the legal industry gravitate toward the adoption of automation in order to increase efficiency and allow for more time to be spent on less tedious tasks.

Piles of legal documents

4. Transcription technology

With most proceedings now taking place remotely via video-conferencing, it’s important that the proceeding is recorded in order to procure a legal transcription. Court reporters can now generate transcripts from recordings of online proceedings with a little helping hand from legal transcription software. Specializing in legal transcripts, Verbit ensures transcripts are accurate (99.9%) and cancels out factors that could interfere with audio quality.

The biggest added value of using software for transcription purposes is the speed at which a transcript can be generated. Technology drastically reduces the turnaround time to receiving completed legal and court transcripts from weeks to days. A first draft can be ready in as little as four hours leaving more time and money to focus on other areas of work.

5. Electronic billing

Firms in the healthcare industry are already using AI when it comes to medical billing. Now, the legal industry is being infiltrated with electronic billing platforms. Technology in the billing space provides a simple alternative to paper-based, manual invoicing. It has the potential to provide more accurate reporting, tracking and client adjustments, all while being more environmentally friendly through reducing paper usage.

6.  Analytics and litigation prediction

In 2019, the Estonian Ministry of Justice developed and piloted an AI software to both hear and decide on small claims disputes of less than €7,000. This use case could potentially spark a global wave of AI in the judiciary.

The outcomes of cases can now be better predicted through the use of machine-learning AI tools, as Estonia is now proving. Using prior outcomes from particular jurisdictions and comparing them to the facts of the case has proved more reliable than human prediction. In fact, in one study, a model predicted 75% of the court’s results in comparison to 59.1% correctly predicted by experts. The question isn’t when this technology will be adopted, but rather how soon?

Legal market trends post-COVID-19

There is certainly no shortage of technological solutions on the market ready to be embraced, and as AI and technology tools become more commonplace in the legal industry, businesses will need to consider what they can adopt to improve inefficient working processes and adapt to today’s new norm of remote work.