Learn to love IT

Artificial intelligence is the way of the future in the legal industry, according to recent global report by the International Legal Technology Association.

As developers engineer increasingly capable software, some with ability to compare a case with thousands of others and provide analysis, lawyers will receive lots of support from non-humans, says Rohit Talwar, the report’s author.

Speaking to Legal Feeds from London, U.K., Talwar, a futurist and strategic adviser at Fast Future, says we haven’t yet created software that’s as intelligent as humans, but “we’re getting there.”

“We are going to see an awful lot of very smart technologies coming in to enhance the way we use our systems and to add value and intelligence to what we’re doing,” says Talwar.

The 140-page report, “Legal Technology Future Horizons,” suggests the physical world, including cars, could be embedded with technology that interprets laws that apply to it, allowing for a sort of automated regulation. Another example is software that could replace experts who pour hours into determining what portion of clients’ businesses will be affected by a potential threat.

The report, which incorporated interviews and surveys conducted across continents, says the way law firms use technology and disruptive innovations will differentiate them from others.

“Law firms need to embrace technology now as not just an enabler of smooth work flows but as a tool that can help create new products and services and new value and take them to the market in different ways,” Talwar says. “And those who embrace it are likely to pull away from the pack.”

According to the report, a paradigm shift to accommodate smarter technology will be a challenge for leaders in the legal industry.

“For law firms and in-house counsel alike, learning to love IT could be the biggest and most difficult emotional shift asked of them over the next decade. This might also be the change for which leaders are least well prepared,” says the report.

“Commercial experience, business skills, and legal expertise will always be important. However, right now, a deep and continuously updated understanding of the capabilities and potential of IT is emerging as a core priority.”

To make the most of technology, the speed of decision-making has to catch up to the pace of tech advancement, Talwar says.

“What we need to do is to really start to understand the potential of this stuff and then how to make good choices and get a return on investment quickly, not get caught up in the decision making process,” he adds. “We’ve got to learn how to speed up the way we execute so that we can get our projects in quickly and we have time to actually get a return on investment before the next technology comes along.”

Talwar says technology will undoubtedly replace work done by junior lawyers, which is why he says we’ll have to rethink how many lawyers we need and how they should be trained.

The report, which says the mobility of people and data will have the biggest impact on how business is done, also notes the future will see global firms venturing a lot more into places like South America and Africa.

“Top talent is saying I’m willing to go where the opportunity is,” Talwar says.

While this would mean physical offices in new places for the big players, using technology to network with others around the world will allow small firms to punch above their weights as well, he adds.

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