New year, new and old legal trends! From e-discovery and project management to AFAs and alternative delivery service models, we’ve compiled the top 10 legal trends that departments and firms should watch for and leverage to their advantage in 2017.
- E-Discovery Changes
According to the Norton Rose “2016 Litigation Trends Annual Survey,” the median annual spend on litigation was $1,000,000. The explosive growth of ESI has made for more costly, complex litigation and driven changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). These changes will continue to shape e-discovery, and roles in e-discovery, technology and litigation support will continue to emerge.
- AI Automates More Work
Artificial intelligence (AI) gets smarter every day. Its potential to automate tasks like TAR, map judicial predispositions to predict rulings or analyze opposing counsel tactics to help prepare defenses grows. And while many think the future of AI in the legal industry is far off, IBM introduced the first artificially intelligent lawyer this year, ROSS. In fact, ROSS already has quite a few clients including Baker & Hostetler who hired ROSS to handle their bankruptcy practice.
- Brexit Affects Privilege and Data Protection
Article 50 will be put into motion on March 31, 2017, and preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in two years will begin. The potential effects on privilege and data protection will start to reveal themselves. For the latest on Brexit, click here.
- Changes in Anti-Trust Regulation
With the new presidential administration comes the possibility of rolling back regulations and repealing of Dodd-Frank. From the now-defunct Donald J. Trump’s transition website in 2016: “The Financial Services Policy Implementation team will be working to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation.”
- Analytics Application Increases
To minimize time humans spend on tasks relating to the staggering amount of data present, corporations and firms will increasingly turn to analytics and their experts to automate intelligent search for e-discovery or to inform future decisions on spend, budgets, bids and more. LLM, Inc.’s Mini Book on TAR quoted the ABA on the topic: Technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and system process improvements are making some types of legal services more accessible and reducing (sometimes even eliminating) the cost of those services
“Technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and system process improvements are making some types of legal services more accessible and reducing (sometimes even eliminating) the cost of those services.”
- Project Management Gains Momentum
To continue profitability and efficiency work, firms and corporations will continue to turn to technology to streamline billing and process management. Similarly, Legal Project Manager (LPM) or Corporate Legal Operations roles will continue to develop. According to Norton Rose “2016 Law Firms in Transition,” 39.6 percent of firms offer project management training to increase efficiency of legal services. And in Aderant’s “Matter Management: The Growing Demand for Legal Project Management,” 64 percent of firms report increased demand from clients for project and budget management.
- Social Networks Widen Influence
In the 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, 71 percent of lawyers use social media for career development/networking and 24 percent of lawyers gained a client from social networking. So, no surprise here, social networks will continue to transform business and law: recruiting, job hunting, interacting with clients, and locating and even discrediting witnesses. In an effort to differentiate themselves from their competition, law firms will use social media to attract new clients. Regulations and case law examples will also continue to emerge.
- Globalization and Virtual Work Grows
According to a 2015 MyCase report, 10 percent of lawyers reported their firm was a virtual law practice. This year, more lawyers will work remotely, able to easily access documents in the cloud, conduct depositions remotely and more. The increase in work-life balance will mean money savings, and more profits, for firms. Another way firms will increase their profits is by turning to Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) to outsource some of their work to external vendors overseas and domestically.
- AFAs Become More Mainstream
In the Norton Rose “2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey,” 41 percent of corporate counsel anticipated an increase in the use of AFAs. This year, whether inside or outside, more will turn to AFAs for an alternative approach to the billable hour for contracts, M&A and litigation, leaving behind overbilling and inefficiency. AFAs will help corporate counsel keep costs down and encourage communication between firms and clients about expectations, strategy and scope. For more on the topic, download LLM Inc.’s AFA Mini Book.
- Alternative Legal Service Delivery Models Increase
In the crowded legal market, firms will continue to try and differentiate themselves through project management, legal technology AFAs, marketing and globalization. Those seeking legal expertise will increasingly turn to other sources, such as non-lawyer professionals like paralegal, e-discovery professional, litigation support, trial consultant, offshore legal vendors, virtual assistants and legal help sites. Norton Rose “2016 Law Firms in Transition” found that 82 percent of firms anticipate competition from non-traditional service providers is a permanent trend.