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2017 Highlights and Trends: A Wrap Up

Nicole BlackNow that 2017 is drawing to a close, it’s time to review the legal technology happenings of the past year. What legal technology events and trends shaped 2017 and will no doubt continue to have an impact in the years come?

Here’s a retrospective on my focus here on Legal IT Pros since last January. While not all encompassing, it offers a (hopefully) instructive glimpse into a small sliver of the legal technology world and provides some insight on what to expect in the upcoming year.

In January, I focused on cybersecurity, an issue that was increasingly at the forefront of lawyers’ legal technology discussions. I reported that according to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, larger law firms were more likely to experience breaches. But when it came to smaller firms, the opposite held true: “Interestingly, solo and small firm attorneys were the most likely to use cloud computing software in 2016, with 35% solos using it, followed by 35% of firms with 2-9 attorneys, 29% of firms with 10-49 attorneys, and 19% of firms of 100 or more lawyers. So firms that used cloud computing the most experienced security breaches the least.”

In February, I offered my perspective on the 2017 Legaltech conference in New York. Of note, the conference format had changed and had expanded to include a solo and small firm track. while at the conference I met with representatives from a number of different software companies and the unifying theme that emerged was a focus on using technology to streamline law firm processes, whether related to ediscovery, client intake, or document and calendar management. 

The following month, I shared my ABA Techshow experiences. Attendance numbers in Chicago were down due to a large winter storm, but even so, the conference was a success. One highlight was that the inaugural legal tech startup competition was held, and the winners were “Ping…followed by Doxly, and then UniCourt, which came in third.”

In April, my focus was on the importance of client-centered communication in law practices. I explained that 21st century legal clients expect more responsive lawyers, and fortunately, technology has emerged that makes that possible: “The advent of affordable and cutting edge technologies, including web-based practice management software, free or low cost online legal research, pay-as-you-go ediscovery services, and VOIP phone systems have leveled the playing field. Using these tools, law firms can now reap the benefits of providing affordable–yet agile, responsive, and comprehensive–legal representation.”

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Then, in May, I turned to the impact of artificial intelligence on the delivery of legal services. I concluded that AI would make its mark on the practice of law and offered the following advice: “AI and the automation of much of the mundane aspects of transactional law practice will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the practice of law - and much earlier than you might think. So it’s worth learning about how it might affect our profession so that you can take steps to position your practice and your firm to take advantage of the changes, rather than be displaced by them. One way to do that is to read the Artificial Lawyer Blog, which tracks the latest in AI technology and how it’s being used by lawyers.”

The need to embrace change was my focus in June. I reviewed some interesting results from Altman Weil’s annual “Law Firms in Transition” report. Then I encouraged lawyers to take steps to embrace change: “(R)emaining stagnant is no longer an option and firms that pivot and use emerging technologies to stand out in the legal marketplace will position themselves for success in the coming years. So, don’t just stand there: go forth and innovate!”

I then reported on one of my favorite topics - cloud computing. I shared two recent ethics opinions that emphasized the many benefits of cloud computing for lawyers. First, as explained in ABA Opinion 477, “while using unencrypted email may be appropriate for routine or low sensitivity communications, due to ‘cyber-threats and (the fact that) the proliferation of electronic communications devices have changed the landscape…it is not always reasonable to rely on the use of unencrypted email.’” And then in Formal Opinion 2017-5, the Professional Ethics Committee of the New York City Bar Association concluded that: “A lawyer…who handles more sensitive information should consider technological solutions that permit secure remote access to confidential information without creating local copies on the device; storing confidential information and communications in secure online locations rather than locally on the device; or using encrypted software to attempt to restrict access to mobile devices.”

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Finally, I turned to cloud computing once again. But this time I focused on how large law firms were using cloud computing. I covered the results of the just-released American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Survey Report, which showed that cloud computing use by lawyers had increased dramatically over the course of one year: “This year’s survey shows that after remaining stagnant at ~30%  from 2013-15, and then increasing to 38% in 2016, there was a marked increase in the number of lawyers using cloud computing in 2017. That percentage jumped to a whopping 52%!” And, I shared that when it came to large firm lawyers, according to the 2017 results, “the only 3 legal cloud computing software programs that had been used by large firm lawyers were NetDocuments, MyCase, and Nextpoint.”

And so ends my 2017 legal technology news retrospective. Thanks your readership and support over the past year and looking forward to sharing more next year. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays and I’ll see you in 2018!

Nicole Black is the Legal technology Evangelist at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

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