How Technology has Changed for the Legal Profession
Like all professions, the legal profession has experienced rapid change due to technological advancements. There are still many practicing attorneys who remember when all legal research occurred in a law library at their firm. Because the law is constantly evolving, the books had frequent addendums attached that came via mail.
Virtually all legal research now occurs online, and most law libraries are more for décor than function. Contract and document management software driven by artificial intelligence has now replaced file rooms filled with floor to ceiling files.
There is little question that technology is changing the entire landscape of practicing law. As with all change, there has been some resistance to new and innovative ways to practice law. Change is inevitable, though, and most legal professionals have learned to embrace how technology can benefit themselves and their clients.
Some of the most recent and exciting changes include:
- Automated e-Discovery—Where attorneys and paraprofessionals once spent hours combing through documents searching for a piece of evidence, the entire process is now digital. The method of discovery was once taxing for attorneys and expensive for clients. Now, automation software uses analytics for shortening the process, which saves time and expense and reduces the likelihood of missing vital information. In the pre-trial phase, attorneys would sometimes attempt to bury damaging discovery by sending boxes upon boxes of discovery information. Now, automation sorts and dismisses irrelevant documents leveling the playing field in the discovery process.
- Innovation in Communication—Lawyers and clients can not communicate from anywhere in the world via instant messaging, email, and web conferencing solutions. New technology also allows attorneys to work remotely, meaning they can attend meetings via teleconference or work from home while still having complete access to files and research.
- AI-Driven contract management software—By there nature, contracts are cumbersome and lengthy documents. Reviewing contracts once took hours to review, and creating contracts that included page after page of legal language was tedious and exhausting. Contracts form the basis of business, so these documents existed in virtually all areas of law.
Contact management software with artificial intelligence allows lawyers and paraprofessionals to review, track, manage and create contracts in a fraction of the time it once took. Contract management software has also strengthened contracts. Machine learning and analytics allow the software to learn which clauses weaken the agreement. AI can then suggest alternative clauses that show a more successful trend.
Contract management software allows attorneys to focus more of their time on higher-value pursuits. Increased job satisfaction is reported when attorneys are free to focus on the more strategic parts of their job.
- The power of analytics—Analytics powered by artificial intelligence in document management systems help automate the time-consuming and dull legal processes. AI can analyze contracts and even learn to understand the language of the contract. The same artificial intelligence can then draw conclusions based on analytics to determine what is working and what is not.
Analytics have also revolutionized the information attorneys can share with clients regarding the most likely outcomes of various legal proceedings. Attorneys can now use analytics that tracks all trial outcomes for particular scenarios and give their clients a statistical analysis of the expected outcome. The same analytics help foster faster and more astute settlement decisions.
- Electronic billing—Billing for time is the foundation for how attorneys and firms make money. Tracking billable time is now made easy and effortless with a host of new technology-driven tools. Mobile apps allow attorneys to track their time with the simple click of a button. Automated statements, detailed analysis of how time is spent, and workflow management all streamline the billing process.
Electronic filing—In the not too distant past, filing court documents meant delivering paper documents to the court to be stamped, filed, and entered into the record. State and federal courts now allow filing on web-based databases. Not only does this make filing the documents easier, but it makes it easier for all involved counsel to access court documents.
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