Ten years ago, Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau revolutionized legal practice management when they introduced Clio, the industry’s first cloud-based legal practice management platform. Over the past decade, there have been a myriad of advancements and changes in legal tech — and the stage has been set for the next 10 years of innovation and invention.
Here are just a few predictions from members of Advocates, the official Clio community, for the next 10 years in legal tech.
1. A millennial push for more tech and less paper
The innovation gap will continue to close, especially given that millennials are now the most represented demographic in the workforce. We are already seeing millennials in small firms and non-profits push for the adoption of technology and resist outdated ethics rules. As attorney Jordan Couch puts it, “As the demographics of firm partners and legal consumers shift toward the millennial generation, that trend can only grow.”
We also expect to see this trend expand to online-only filing for pleadings, online fee payments and full online access to docket sheets and PDFs of filed documents. Paralegal Kay Marley-Dillworth can’t wait. “In Texas, our federal and district courts are all online, but many of the courts do not allow access to the docket or documents.”
2. Increased mobility
With paperless practices on the rise, lawyers will soon be able to take their entire digital practices wherever they need to go — even into court. “Most judges are already willing to view documents on these devices and do not require paper copies in court,” says attorney Tania Bartolini. “I believe and hope that soon the legal profession will adopt the paperless lifestyle completely.”
Managing Attorney Owen Hathaway agrees, predicting that mobile devices will become more ubiquitous than they already are. “‘Mobile’ will no longer be a thing; it will be the thing, so we won’t even have a special name for it anymore.”
3. More remote work
Firms can scale down their costs while increasing their flexibility and efficiency with remote workspaces for their employees. Office Manager Leslie Lelii thinks moving to a remote structure will have another big benefit — collaboration across state lines. “By joining with lawyers in other states to branch out with satellite offices, [firms will be able to] attract a wider client base. I also think that a lot of jurisdiction issues will start to go away as it becomes easier to work with local counsel in other jurisdictions to represent your clients,” she says.
Video conferencing will play an important role in keeping remote teams connected, but members of the Advocates community predict it will also be used for client consultations and even court appearances. “I would imagine video-conferencing will become the way all court appearances are handled in the future,” said bookkeeper Tiffany Hoyhtya.
4. AI and DIY
According to the “2017 Legal Trends Report,” Lawyers spend only 2.3 hours (29 percent of an 8-hour workday) on billable tasks. On average, the majority of lawyers’ nonbillable time is spent on administrative tasks (48 percent) and business development (33 percent). However, by using the right tools (including AI) to create and optimize processes that automate administrative work, lawyers can spend more time actually practicing law.
Attorney Todd Ver Weire sees further applications in particular areas of practice. “I see AI taking over alternative dispute resolution with small consumer cases, and the expansion of DIY apps when it comes to contested family matters or estate matters,” Ver Weire said.
5. Lawyers that work more like doctors
Overall, the future of legal tech will ease the burden of administrative work, improve communication between colleagues and clients, and ultimately return lawyers to the craft of legal representation. Jordan Couch sums it up perfectly: “The next ten years will see a fundamental change in what it means to practice law. Lawyers, like surgeons, will be able to practice at the top of their license, using the creativity they learned in law school to invent and test new ways of serving clients. All routine legal tasks will be able to be handed off to tech tools and other legal professionals.”