Technology is affecting every aspect of our lives. It is altering every industry, though the degree of change and rate of change varies. Law is no exception to this trend. Here are five law firm technology trends for 2018. These technologies and trends will affect the legal profession for years to come.
The International Exchange of Services
The internet allows someone to sell online to almost anyone in the world. It has also enabled businesses to hire talent anywhere in the world. This has led to some law firms hiring people in other countries to work as virtual assistants, contract reviewers, or legal translators. It has driven demand for international legal expertise since even a small business may be exporting to half a dozen countries on a regular basis.
Globalization of Law
When you were in an international dispute, the first question that used to arise was which jurisdiction took precedence. Today, we’re seeing a global push to standardize laws and regulations so that there isn’t as much of a difference. More countries are pushing compliance with labor and human rights onto their suppliers, such as requiring documentation that the businesses meet international standards and subject themselves to audits as required. This trend is accelerated in nations in regional free trade agreements like NAFTA, the EU or Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
While Bitcoin gets the fame and attention, the technology behind it – Blockchain – is starting to affect a variety of industries. We sat down with Peter Wall from steinpag and he stated that Blockchain is impossible to hack or forge, so it is now being used for asset tracking of financial assets. It is also being built into “smart contracts”. Instead of signing paper contracts and scanning them or signing a contract with one’s mouse and clicking various confirmation buttons, Blockchain is being used to verify and store the user’s signature. Smart contracts will allow people to sign legally binding agreements no matter where they are that are recognized by the courts, whether buying a house or agreeing to payment terms.
Why reinvent the wheel? Or, in the case of law firms, why pay for a paralegal to draft a unique document when you can use templates for nearly every type of agreement. The template software is smart enough to let the legal expert modify clauses based on their situation and edit what needs to be changed. Furthermore, the software applications are typically updated as the law changes so that no one creates a state-specific will that is invalid because the standard wording spelled out in the law has changed.
Document management systems are much more advanced than a server where you save every single document. They can be set up to track every version of a document so that you can go back to the initial draft and copy specific language into the latest version. It allows you to set access control limits, limiting who can view signed forms, modify works still being edited or update company approved templates. Document management systems can be set up to use workflows that are similar to those already used in case management systems, automatically notifying lawyers of completed contracts or agreements in need of review or approval.
Proactive Legal Advice
Risk management is a growing area in the legal industry, says Thomas from WBTBlaw. Instead of waiting to be sued for violations of employment law, companies are having corporate policies and employee handbooks drafted by law firms. Legal professionals are being engaged while companies are drafting terms of service for contracts, return policies, privacy policies and other agreements with their customers. Policies and business procedures are being reviewed for legal compliance and altered to minimize risks of liability, and in some cases, reducing insurance premiums.
The world is changing. Is your law firm ready?