This year, the legal industry only began to scratch the surface of what’s possible when it embraces technology.
Lawyers became more educated about how they should be leveraging technology, while legal software continued to advance, catching up with the tools and resources available in other industries. Next year, we’ll see more lawyers who won’t just be comfortable with exploring new solutions for their firms — they’ll start to actively seek them out.
Litify rounded up legal technology predictions from internal and external subject matter experts to get a better understanding of what lies ahead in 2020.
1. Accelerated adoption of Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is essentially an environment that allows companies to develop and manage their own apps in the cloud, without the hassle of having to maintain the infrastructure that comes along with it. Salesforce is an example of a PaaS provider.
Increased PaaS adoption can be evidenced by the growth of legal solutions on the Salesforce.com platform, as well as the emergence of dedicated legal PaaS providers, like Reynen Court.
Investments in legal technology spiked in 2019, reaching a record-breaking $1.2 billion in September.
While it’s true that the legal industry has moved to the cloud at a much slower rate than other industries (only 55% of law firms use the cloud compared to 91% of businesses in general), that will likely change next year, as more and more legal tech solutions come on the scene.
Investments in legal technology spiked in 2019, reaching a record-breaking $1.2 billion in September. And according to a Gartner study, public cloud revenue is predicted to increase overall by 16.5% in 2020.
2. Greater use of blockchain
In 2019, blockchain use matured significantly within financial services and cybersecurity. But blockchain plays an important role in the legal industry as well.
Last year, the Vermont State Supreme Court added blockchain to its list of permissible forms of evidence in the courtroom. We’ll likely see more states follow suit, particularly since blockchain’s immutable nature makes it a priceless form of evidence. When used to write media metadata, for instance, blockchain can protect against photo and video manipulation.
Blockchain is also being used to write “smart contracts”—digital contracts that feature legal terms and conditions written in code so that the contract can self-execute once terms are met. Once one party delivers a particular service, the contract will automatically charge the other party, without requiring external involvement.
The Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, a group dedicated to developing standards for blockchain use in the legal industry, now lists over 300 participating organizations. In 2020, we’ll likely see legal professionals incorporate blockchain more frequently in their own work, as well as collaborate with and advise other industries to enhance the security and productivity of blockchain overall.
3. State and local courts continue to prioritize case management software
Conversations about legal technology predominantly focus on law firms, but court systems must have access to a robust case management software if they are to operate as efficiently as possible. Some local courts are lagging behind in technology to such a devastating degree though that they are lucky to have computers in the building.
Providing court systems with a singular, deployable software package that includes a full document management suite and one-click Pacer lookups could expose a larger audience, like local attorneys, to the benefits of such technology. If this technology integrated with an e-signature platform like Docusign, it would bypass the need for hard copies and cut down on clerical costs. Overall, these improvements in technology could reduce the length of cases, cut down on court costs, and improve overall efficiency.
Effective case management software not only ensures that the courts operate smoothly, it also reduces the chances for errors, which can severely impinge on the court’s ability to deliver justice. In 2016, reports accused Odyssey case management software of allegedly causing unlawful arrests and longer prison sentences.
This year, multiple states like Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Kansas, and Florida rolled out initiatives to update their case management software—a sign that technology will continue to be a priority for state and local courts in 2020.
4. Even more on-premise cybersecurity incidents
Law firms that have yet to adopt the cloud will continue to have a much higher risk for suffering a data breach.
Businesses that are on the cloud will suffer 60% fewer security incidents.
Most law firms don’t have the resources and cyber-skills necessary to effectively address security threats on their own. By moving their infrastructure off of an on-premise solution to a cloud service provider, firms can rest assured that their data is physically secure in multiple offsite locations, backed up in case of a disaster, and most likely protected with encryption and multi-factor authentication. Plus, cloud service providers typically put a greater emphasis on security since it is a core tenet of their business model—you’d be hard pressed to find a small firm that makes cybersecurity as much of a priority.
Gartner predicted that businesses that are on the cloud will experience 60% fewer security incidents than those that are using more traditional on-premise solutions. Of the incidents that do happen on the cloud through 2025, they predict that 99% will be due to the customer’s fault—not the fault of the cloud itself.
5. Using data-driven legal marketing to understand the entire client journey
Legal marketing will continue to become more and more data driven in 2020. Generally speaking, the deeper a marketer can understand a customer’s journey through to the point of conversion, the better their ad platforms can use automation to drive efficiency.
Today, most law firms capture information when a customer clicks on a call-to-action, or makes a phone call. The most sophisticated firms take this one step further though by analyzing the customers’ journey through to the point that they sign a retainer. But that is where the legal customer journey generally stops today.
Meaningful litigation data (including settlement amounts, the amount of time to resolution, etc.) is being captured by legal CRM tools, but it isn’t being passed to and ingested by ad platforms in a meaningful way. Successful legal marketers in 2020 will bridge this gap and enable ad platforms to automate their advertising spend in real time based on the full picture of the legal customer journey, from client acquisition to case resolution, to ensure the most valuable leads find their way to the law firm.
6. Continued reliance on AI to drive efficiency
In the future, we’ll see an even greater reliance on AI to complete lower-skilled or time consuming legal tasks, particularly legal research and contract review.
An example of this is technology-assisted document review. Tech programs, like Relativity and Everlaw, use natural language processing to scan documents for information related to a lawyer’s query in e-discovery, review contracts for specific clauses, and more.
The State of AI in Legal Report found there's a large opportunity for lawyer's tasks to be automated with existing technology. While AI won't be replacing attorneys any time in the near future, but we'll likely see legal professionals delegate more and more lower-level tasks to machines.
7. Leveraging SMS to automate client communications
Firms that have yet to embrace SMS as a method of client communication will likely find themselves at a disadvantage in the new year.
A study from Campaign Monitor found that text messages have a 98% open rate. Email? Just 20%. And Americans are texting more than they are talking on the phone: On average, we’re spending 26 minutes per day texting, and only 6 minutes on phone calls.
Adding SMS to more traditional mix of communication can help law firms reach non-responsive clients. It’s also extremely efficient for short updates or questions, requiring less time than playing phone tag. Automating client updates via SMS and email can also help ensure clients are updated throughout the duration of their case, without the firm having to devote a lot of energy and resources.