It's time for more legal professionals to embrace tech like AI, automation, blockchain, and IoT
The business and enterprise world as a whole is undergoing profound transformation thanks to modern technologies, new tools and platforms, and the implications they bring. Digital data has the potential to change everything from retail and customer service to manufacturing.
But as the world evolves on that front, so are the security, privacy and compliance sectors. Legal professionals, especially, have their work cut out for them, helping organizations and groups navigate the incredibly noisy technology market.
With data, for instance, not only do you need to collect and utilize it appropriately, but you must also offer robust security and protections to keep it from being corrupted or compromised. With AI and machine learning, the concerns are much the same. It’s entirely possible for a purportedly accurate AI tool to make a mistake that causes damage, digital or real. Then there’s blockchain and crypto, IoT, VR and mobile — just to name a few additional tech platforms making an impact.
And yet, the incredible convenience of modern technology is worth all the hassle. For many of us — legal professionals included — it makes our jobs easier and helps us be more efficient. That, in turn, helps businesses thrive and grow beyond what they would without such tools and support.
In legal, specifically, how are these technologies making a difference? Not just in regards to how they change jobs and duties, but also how the work is transformed, as well? What other implications and responsibilities do they introduce?
Modern Technology in Legal: The How and What
Before you can look at the implications of modern tech on the bulk of the business world, you have to consider how it influences your bubble — in this case the legal industry. How can legal make use of technologies such as AI, automation, blockchain or even IoT?
It can all be boiled down to automation, analytics and data — and big data, specifically. AI requires a healthy stream of data to be truly useful and IoT devices help create and collect that data. But it’s the processes that convert and extract insights from all that information that make the biggest difference. AI is at the heart of that too, but it’s powered by automation: systems that more efficiently and continuously carry out a particular action with little to no outside input.
To provide an example, lawyers could utilize an automated system that scans digital documents and files and looks for “hooks” or potential action points. Many have had the experience of scouring legal files, documents, books, and court filings days or even hours leading up to a major case, just to find a relevant answer for their own arguments. This entire process could essentially be automated, allowing personnel to focus on what matters most and also eliminating the tedium of research.
But in order to achieve such a system, a lot has to happen. First, many of those documents and files must become available digitally. Second, the software and algorithms to help identify said “hooks” need to be developed by people who understand the legal industry. The latter requires developers and programmers who also have a background in legal — that’s an incredibly niche group.
Piggybacking off that theoretical filing system, there are a lot of limitations and concerns that arise due to the development, use and handling of the related data. Any documents or files must be securely stored and accurately transcribed. The software and algorithms must be able to operate with utmost precision, as a poor or wrong action could have serious implications. Finally, anyone and everyone involved, included the developers creating the tools, must use discretion and adhere to legal and regulatory standards.
This process is called “eDiscovery” and involves a labor-intensive and incredibly time-consuming lead-up, including the transcription and conversion of all documents, files, books and information into digital form. That highlights another important factor to consider: despite a penchant for automation and more efficient technologies, a human element is still necessary. Even with the automation and filing of various documents, for instance, notaries are still necessary in today’s legally fraught landscape.
Above, we explored a more theoretical example that is, of course, grounded in reality. eDiscovery and related systems are very real and will soon become commonplace in the legal industry. But what else is seeing a pattern of discovery? What other technologies are being utilized?
Blockchain can be used for compliance and regulatory reporting, enhanced cybersecurity and improved transparency for legal proceedings and interactions — without compromising sensitive details.
Internet of Things devices equipped with advanced sensors and connected, communicative technologies can help us become more aware and more tuned-in. Imagine a smartwatch that keeps track of your entire legal schedule, including court events, meetings and luncheons, or client appointments.
IoT can also be used to enhanced the modern legal office, connecting everyone and everything inside to one seamless, reliable network. You know when your colleagues are entering your office or they’re headed out for a major event. You can communicate with them anywhere, anytime, to get updates or additional information.
Analytics, AI and machine learning can all be used to streamline legal processes, particularly when it comes to reading or reviewing legal documents. An AI can be trained, for instance, to review a document you drew up for errors, red flags or missing content.
How Can You Adapt?
Whether you’re the head of a major firm or an intern, it’s time to brush up on modern technologies, their use cases and how that factors into the legal implications of today. Security and privacy, though lightly touched upon here, are incredibly crucial to the handling of modern data. A mistake can cause damage to hundreds, if not thousands, of people and lead to serious legal repercussions for any business or agency.
To prepare, you’ll want to dig deeper into the research and understanding of such technologies. Grow your knowledge, not just in how the tech is used and what it means, but also in regards to the legal aspects which others might not see.
Getting a head-start on this research and becoming more familiar with the technologies at the helm — mobile and social media included — will help you survive and thrive long into the future.
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