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Law firms and tech – crossing the digital frontier

Law firms and tech – crossing the digital frontier

Written by Joe Allison, Peregrine Law

Lawyers are starting to appreciate the necessity of integrating modern technologies into their businesses and their legal service delivery. While it is easy to be overwhelmed by the number of competing innovative technologies available, this note considers two that the legal sector is, and should consider, embracing: blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI).

Blockchain

Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, has the potential to transform the way data is transferred between parties and how actions are initiated. Making amendments to any of the contained data requires verification by all relevant stakeholders within the network, ensuring that information and transactions are safeguarded against illicit and misguided tampering.

Additionally, the de-centralisation and anonymisation of the stored data provides extra privacy barriers and reduces vulnerability to cyberattacks. These unique security and validation procedures provide an added incentive to firms and their clients who are concerned about handling sensitive data, particularly with the introduction in Europe in May of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Blockchain follows these steps:

  • Data is captured in the form of ‘blocks’
  • These sequentially create ‘chains’ to provide an overall record of how information has been managed and transferred
  • The automated procedures available within blockchain technology mean businesses should be able to verify information with greater efficiency
  • Therefore, contractual and financial obligations can be activated at a significantly faster rate, due to its automated procedure

Large law firms, in particular, are paying increasing attention to the potential of blockchain; in 2017 PwC reported that 31% of law firms providing high-value legal services maintained an interest in utilising blockchain technology, whilst an additional 41% of firms providing transactional legal services reported the same interest.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Clients are becoming less accepting of traditionally perceived ‘overpriced’ legal work, such as time-consuming, large scale contract reviews. The emergence of AI has meant that such tasks historically requiring significant manpower are potentially much easier to streamline, with a knock on effect of reducing time costs and presumably price.

For AI to be as effective as possible within the industry, I suggest lawyers:

  • Do not shy away from the challenge. Instead, they should be proactive in understanding not only how it can make legal tasks more efficient, but how it actually improves and enhances the value of the legal services being provided
  • Appreciate and quickly decide the level of investment they are able and willing to commit to AI
  • Utilise AI to review huge volumes of data to provide detailed analyses and predictions regarding the potential outcomes of litigation cases
  • Could also benefit from using extensive AI tools such as system maps, which provide a visual analysis of the different variables within contracts or other legal documents

AI can also be implemented to strengthen law firms’ resilience against a range of security concerns. As law firms are notoriously vulnerable to cyber attacks, AI can offer more sophisticated protection by identifying possible entry points for cybercriminals.

Undoubtedly, AI and blockchain can help develop the reputation of the legal industry as a more streamlined and forward-thinking profession.  Harnessing available technologies will impress clients, lead to more efficient service delivery and ultimately provide them with a better margin on work that is increasingly considered ‘commoditised’.