As another year draws to a close, it’s time to take a look backward. In 2016, I wrote about a lot of different legal technology issues, but which ones stood out? What legal technology trends shaped 2016 and will continue to shape the legal profession well into 2017 and beyond?
I started the year off in January discussing one of the most talked about topics of 2016 and then returned to that topic again in June: the effect of AI on the legal profession. Despite the dire predictions of some that robots would soon replace many of the functions that lawyers perform, I concluded that that simply wouldn’t be the case.
Certainly AI will replace some of the more routine, mundane tasks performed by lawyers, but many of the more complex “analytical and creative thought processes…simply cannot be replaced by computers (and while) software can streamline many aspects of practicing law and increase efficiencies…at the end of the day, computers cannot practice law.”
In February and March, my focus was on two of my favorite legal technology conferences: Legaltech New York and ABA Techshow. At both Legaltech and Techshow, cloud computing reigned supreme, with a vast assortment of legal software companies offering a wide range of cloud-based versions of their software in 2016. And at both conferences, there was an ever-evolving list of new and failed legal technology startups. This revolving door concept dominated “many of the conversations…(which) were focused on this new reality for legal technology startups: it’s a finicky market and a crowded space. Survival of the fittest is at play and only a few will make it.” There’s a lot of potential in the legal technology space, but a lot of volatility and competition as well.
In my April and May columns, law firm stagnancy and lack of innovation reigned supreme. The “2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market” offered disheartening conclusions about the overall unwillingness of most law firms to adapt to rapid change. The study authors concluded with the following depressing analogy: “While a few firms have been proactive in pursuing these opportunities, the vast majority (have) not. Like Kodak, they have been locked in a kind of denial driven inertia, a belief that somehow the model that brought them past success will see them through now as well.” In May, I discussed the unfortunate result of the failure to adapt: lawyers being duped by email scams. I concluded with my recommendation that “whether (lawyers) plan to use online communication portals, encrypted email, or snail mail, (they must) make sure to research (their) options and choose—and communicate—carefully.”
Mobile and cloud-based collaboration platforms were the focus in my columns from August, September, and October. Based on the results of the 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report and my observations while attending the 2016 ILTA conference in D.C., it was clear that lawyers from law firms of all sizes were increasingly embracing mobile and cloud tools. The reason? Because they provide lawyers with 24/7 convenient, affordable access to client files and an ability to communicate and collaborate in a secure online environment.
And finally, in November, I discussed how recent technological advancements provide lawyers with a flexibility and convenience never before seen, resulting in better and more responsive client service: “Technology is changing the legal landscape and providing lawyers with more options and better tools than ever before. Improvements and advances in software are making it possible for lawyers to be more mobile, collaborative, and responsive, while focusing on the work they truly enjoy. Clearly, lawyers have a lot to be grateful about as the end of 2016 approaches.”
With that, I bid you farewell for now, my faithful readers. Enjoy the holidays and see you in 2017!
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