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Over the last three decades, technological advances in the practice of law have been powerful change agents, causing major shifts in the way legal business is conducted. Law firms across the globe are responding and adapting to these changes with respect to the manner in which they interact with clientele, practice law and manage their own lawyers.

Let us look at how the technology is reshaping the legal profession today.  So long as the critical thinking and problem solving aspects remain at the forefront, the future of the legal profession is with few limitations, thanks to today’s technological advances.

The Technological Reshaping of the Legal Profession

Advances in technology have served to magnify the values of legal issues and practices, and those skilled in problem solving. However, their greatest benefit is one that is most often taken for granted. Technology allows for faster access to much-needed knowledge bases, whether in terms of case law, legislation or internal firm knowledge.

Companies such as FluencyLegal are making strides in the right direction, by making document writing easier for its clients. This company uses cutting edge cloud technology to serve as a global leader in the production of online automated documents.

Thanks to automated cloud technology, FluencyLegal  provides services to its clients that can focus on structuring, strategy and client advisory work, which are of far greater value than the lengthy processing and drafting aspects of doing legal business. The company caters to clients ranging from individuals to large private and public businesses.

FluentDocs is another Australian company that utilizes the power of technology, combined with legal expertise,  to help clients obtain high quality legal documents online.  The  company’s exclusive technology enables it to create document automation systems with complex logic that removes barriers from even the most complex documents. Unlike companies that sell generic documents, each document  from FluentDocs is customized exclusively for the client who orders it.

Internal Knowledge Management Systems and Websites

Internal knowledge management systems and websites that enable hyperlinking of knowledge and micro catigorisation, have transformed the manner in which lawyers obtain and interact with the core components of their profession. Modern technology has become so ingrained in today’s legal practice, that many attorneys fail to recognise what a large step forward it provides in legal knowledge management.

Having access to this knowledge via mobile technological devices, now has the potential to bring the true skills of legal practitioners to the forefront. However, continued developments in technology are also presenting a number of challenges.

Technology Oriented Challenges to the Legal Profession

The problem lies in that with any disruptive force, technology in law has the potential to negatively affect profits for incumbents, while tech-saavy startups with knowledge of search engine optimization and other ways to raise their search engine rankings are most likely to capture the legal market share, causing a negative affect on well-established brick and mortar legal practices.

Because of quickly advancing technology, simple, straightforward legal jobs that many sole practitioners have relied upon for a good deal of their income, will become more commoditised with time. Legal practices will be forced to either choose to provide bespoke services or high-volume commoditised services. Those law firms that remain stuck in the middle will be the most threatened.

Restructuring is one way of integrating into the new age of technology in the legal practice. Restructuring in these instances, will require law firms to develop new business models that take account of the way information is now consumed by the public. It is a mistake to think that any practice is immune to the required changes.

Restructuring

Many firms are still locked into traditional, non-technological structures and have not begun to appreciate the implications of technological developments. Savvy legal practices are not  simply  using technology for secretarial duties. They are also reducing  labor costs by relying on technology to perform electronic discovery and to automate legal document creation.

Additional Technological Breakthroughs

Those in the legal profession who embrace the new technological breakthroughs are substantially cutting overhead costs by using the simplest tools, such as document assimilation software, or more advanced programs, which use algorithms based in bio science to compare changes in contracts.

Other firms are providing valuable case libraries to their repositories of valuable information.  Lawyers can mine these repositories with a few clicks of a mouse, rather than relying on asking colleagues whether or not they can recall similar cases that the firm has handled.

It can also be argueD that the majority of lawyers are not knowledgeable enough about technology to understand how to interpret the data that is rendered by predictive coding.

One open-source legal documents website, has come up with a document analysis tool that can track alterations to privacy policies and terms of service agreements across the entire world-wide web. The company is also developing a product that will apply bio science algorithms to legal documents.

Computer assisted review, or predictive coding is a rather controversial advanced technology. This software searches through huge amounts of client data, looking for specific orders and keywords, and then tags this data based on its relevance to those criteria. For example, predictive coding can be used to isolate information in class action lawsuits, that is relevant to class members in copious numbers of payroll documents, internal emails and other pertinent information.

It can be argued that the use of predictive coding is better than having a hired employee sift through mountains of documents to attain information. This means that law firms are able to rely upon the technology,  rather than have to deal with the expensive labor costs associated with requiring employees to perform this task.  However, another  school of thinking considers predictive coding ineffective because it uses an underdeveloped technology. It can also be argues that the majority of lawyers are not knowledgeable enough about technology to understand how to interpret the data that is rendered by predictive coding.

It can be argued that the use of predictive coding is better than having a hired employee sift through mountains of documents to attain information. This means that law firms are able to rely upon the technology,  rather than have to deal with the expensive labor costs associated with requiring employees to perform this task.  However, another  school of thinking considers predictive coding ineffective because it uses an underdeveloped technology. It can also be argues that the majority of lawyers are not knowledgeable enough about technology to understand how to interpret the data that is rendered by predictive coding.

The bottom line is that the technological tool being used matters, but only as much as the person using it understands it and knows how to interpret its data. Prior to investing in complicated, expensive software, law firms might consider a reexamination of the programs already in effect, and make certain they are being utilised to their full potential.

Resistance to Change

There are still those law practices that resist the unavoidable technological changes that are occurring so rapidly within their profession. Even when they are told about the copious benefits of new technology, some law firms resist the changes because they do not want to shave their billable hours.

Experts suggest that as attorney-client relationships increases in transparency, and clients seek greater value in the competitive market, alternative billing methods will slowly begin to replace hourly billing, which will overcome the dam that is now a last resistance to new technology.