Legal Tech Developments of 2014
Our understanding of technology’s applications in the legal field is growing rapidly, and the past year saw many developments in the legal technology industry. Some of these developments, in a broad sense, happened in the areas of legal research, legal hacking, encryption, searching out court dockets, and knowledge management.

When it comes to knowledge management in particular, there are three major developments that took place in 2014:

Changing the Practice of Law

In the U.S. some jurisdictions have attempted to shut down innovative legal companies, such as LegalZoom, on the basis that they are practicing law in an “unauthorized” manner. Canada, however, hasn’t witnessed such challenges, mainly because the online legal information services sector hasn’t developed in Canada like it has in the U.S., to this point. Another factor could be existing lawyers exerting their control over the delivery of legal services.

In August, however, the CBA Legal Futures Initiative released a report on alternative business structures (ABSs) and multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs). Alternative business structures allow lawyers to practice in an environment where ownership, management, and investment by persons other than lawyers or other regulated professionals is acceptable, MDPs are acceptable, and fee-sharing with non-lawyers is allowed. These regulatory moves only set the stage for future developments in this area.

Machines Aiding Lawyers

In 2014, technologies became increasingly accepted and even commonplace in the legal industry. The debate is no longer centered on whether or not to utilize these technologies, but it has shifted instead to figuring out the best way to do so.

For Canadian firms, the most effective tool is enterprise search, despite the fact that adoption has been mostly limited to large firms because of the high cost of implementation. Cost has remained high largely because of the lack of competition in the field. All legal practitioners in Canada would benefit from a few emerging innovators willing to take on the traditional incumbents. As these types of search tools become less expensive, more lawyers will be able to effectively and efficiently mine their cache of stored knowledge to identify the must useful, situational tidbits.

Disruptive Innovation

This point might also be thought of as “new thinking” from young lawyers. There is a growing trend of legally trained entrepreneurs that are examining how things are being done and brainstorming ways in which they can be done better. Young lawyers understand the changing nature of the legal landscape and many are poised to take advantage of the impending industry changes.

Traditionally, many law firms have looked at the need to innovate as an end in itself, rather than as a means to a better end for their customers or clients. Successful innovators simply identify and learn how to satisfy customer needs. More and more, young lawyers are focusing on satisfying client needs and learning how to do so in ways that are more efficient and effective than in the past.

The shifting legal landscape in Canada means that opportunity abounds for students and young professionals focused on the legal field. Time will only tell how the traditional Bay Street firms will react to adaptation and innovation around them. It will sure make for an interesting 2015!

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Posted by: DSR
Monday, March 2, 2015
Tag: Legal
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