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Four top legal technology developments that every attorney should know

Written by Erika Winston

5 min read

We’re almost at the final quarter of 2019. If your law firm hasn’t taken advantage of this year’s legal tech innovations, you may want to jump to it.

It seems like technology is developing at the speed of light, and before you know it the 2020 crop of legal technologies will be front and center. But before that happens, take a look at what’s available now and consider whether these innovations can benefit your law firm with improved efficiencies, increased capabilities, and even greater profits.

Here are four top legal tech developments that you need to know:


Document automation

Law offices tend to be document-heavy, with vast amounts of time spent drafting, creating, and executing documents. From engagement letters to contracts, the amount of time and effort that goes into these tasks can have negative effects on a firm’s overall productivity.

Automation helps lawyers create documents in a more efficient and time-saving manner, while also minimizing errors. Some of the tasks that can be significantly streamlined through the innovation of automation include:

  • Form Creation

For many legal practices, form creation is a major responsibility that takes up a lot of time. Most attorneys use intake forms for new clients; business attorneys regularly draft sales or real estate contracts; and estate lawyers constantly draft wills and trust documents.

With document automation, you no longer have to sit down and reinvent the wheel each time you need to create one of these documents. By turning these various documents into fillable forms, automation systems allow you to quickly generate new ones with a simple merger of the client’s specific information.

  • Repetitive Text

If you find yourself typing the same block of text repetitively, then you need document automation in your firm. These tools help you quickly insert the language you commonly use for quick email responses, form letters, and even court documents.


Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) mimics operations of the human mind by using algorithms to learn patterns and complete tasks that typically require human intelligence. It is shifting the way legal work gets done, affecting such tasks as:

  • Document review – AI-powered software streamlines document analysis by reviewing documents and information that is relevant to a particular case. After a particular type of document is identified as relevant, the software looks for others that are similarly relevant. When it comes to the review of hundreds of pages, AI-powered machines are much faster and more thorough at producing results when compared to humans.
  • Contract review – Contract review is done for the purpose of identifying risks to the client and discovering issues that could have negative impacts. AI assists attorneys with these tasks by helping to flag potential problems, edit existing contracts, and negotiate better terms.
  • Due diligence – Attorneys are obligated to practice due diligence in the representation of their clients. This includes uncovering background information, confirming facts, and thoroughly evaluating the decisions on prior cases. AI tools can help make the processes of due diligence more efficient and more accurate. This type of work can be tedious for humans, but AI software is able to handle it more effectively.


Reinventing legal research

Legal research is one of the most time consuming and tedious tasks of legal practice. It can take hours to find just the right cases and precedents, particularly with the constant addition of new court decisions and fact patterns. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is innovating the process of legal research, using algorithms and learned patterns to conduct comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate legal research.

These programs can take an uploaded brief or pleading and use natural language to quickly and efficiently sort through cases, summaries, and legal analysis. They find cases and decisions that are most relevant to the identified subject matter.

AI algorithms can also recommend relevant precedents that you may not have previously known about. They can even handle the shepardizing process. With AI technology, attorneys can feel confident that they are relying on the most accurate and timely case law when representing their clients.


Virtual collaborations  

Cloud-based case management software has been a major development within the legal industry. Not only are these innovations more secure and efficient, but they also provide a tool for virtual collaborations.

Gone are the days when paralegals, assistants, and colleagues must be in the physical office to conduct business. Cloud-based software supports online collaboration – and in many ways, it can be more effective and organized:

  • Files, contacts, and communications are maintained centrally.
  • All collaborators have access to the most updated versions of case documents, cutting down on the possibility of errors.
  • Access can be managed so that only credentialed colleagues have case access.
  • Many of these software options offer the ability to track tasks and monitor deadlines.
  • Automated workflows help ensure that all aspects of a matter are adequately handled.

More and more attorneys choose mobile law firms over traditional physical office locations. With cloud-based software, even a solo attorney working from home can establish collaborations with virtual colleagues and support staff, resulting in lower overhead costs, improved mobility, and time savings. These lawyers can establish a more competitive legal practice while meeting their client’s needs.  


Blockchain innovations

Blockchain technology has taken the world by storm, and the last year has seen this technology creep into the legal industry. Lawyers working in practice areas like finance, real estate, and energy are already seeing the usage of blockchain by clients. But this technology is not limited to specific areas of law. Blockchain is also becoming more commonly used for such legal tasks as:

  • Self-executing contracts – This technology stores and maintains contract data on a network of blockchain computers. Negotiations, contract changes, and term enforcement can be handled in a more timely and efficient manner.
  • Digital tags – Blockchain uses digital tags that can track all physical and online movement of a document, which assists in establishing a reliable chain of custody for stored documents. With block chain, attorneys do not have to worry about documents being tampered with or deleted.


Don’t miss out on these technology developments

Don’t let 2019 pass without taking advantage of these useful legal technologies. From automation to blockchain, there is undoubtedly a legal innovation out there to fit the needs of your firm.

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