What a difference a decade makes.
Ten years ago, I had the honor of speaking at ABA Tech Show for the first time. Back then, cloud-based tools like Basecamp, Google Docs, Zoho and wikis were just coming on my radar as a means to connect with and communicate with clients but law-specific practice management platforms like Clio and RocketMatter were still in their nascency. Other than the cloud and e-filing, technology in 2008 – though less costly – wasn’t all that different from what had been around in 1998.
Fast forward ten years, and the pace of change has noticeably accelerated. At times, the list of innovations is too difficult to track – but here are the key developments that I observed at this year’s Legal Tech Show:
The Cloud Is Flying High I counted at least ten practice management platforms at this year’s Tech Show – ranging from general use systems like MyCase, Practice Panther, Zola and Case.one along with more niche systems for litigation, personal injury and family law.
Abundant and Cheap Legal Research In 2008, services like Versuslaw, Fastcase and Casemker were around – through LEXIS and Westlaw still dominated the TechShow Floor. But Fastcase now has major presence and is growing like crazy with its recent acquisition of Docket Alarm , Ross AI-powered tech is all the buzz and Casetext now allows researchers easy access to case briefs for low costs. Competition is a wonderful thing!
Document Automation Made Easy and Platform Agnostic Legal tech consultants often wonder why document automation has never really taken off. The answer: it’s always been enormously complicated to use, required costly consultants to implement effectively and worked only in Windows. At this year’s TechShow, however, that’s changed with companies like Lawyaw and Case.one’s Document.one allowing for document automation and form completion in the cloud. Many practice management platforms also include basic automation of retainer agreements and simple forms. As a Mac user, I’ve been waiting for platform agnostic technology forever and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to incorporate these tools into my practice.
Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots Lots of technology tools -from Ross (legal research) to several data analytics and marketing platforms promised “AI-powered analysis.” I’m skeptical as to whether the PR confuses AI (where machines grow smarter) from brute power data processing. Meanwhile, I didn’t see as many Chatbots as I would have expected – though Case.One has a tool that allows for easy creation of chatbots for customer service with clients.
Blockchain and Smart Contract Technology Not Quite Ready for Prime Time I saw at least three companies that are developing block-chain platforms for smart contracts. Unfortunately, I did not see any actual demonstrations of how these platforms will be used in practice; I suspect we’ll see a breakout in smart contract technology next year.
Today’s technology can be overwhelming but at the same time, it’s exhilarating. Who knows what will happen during the next ten years but I say bring it on!
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