Staying Ahead of the Curve: 6 Top Legal Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
The legal industry has earned its cautious reputation to “watch and wait” before adopting technology. But forward-looking organizations are increasingly turning to technology to automate processes, streamline operations, enhance customer service and collaboration, increase efficiency, and remain competitive. As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, law firms need to stay on top of the latest legal tech advancements.
In 2023, we see six significant trends that considerably impact the legal industry. These include artificial intelligence (AI), hybrid and remote work collaboration, cloud, workflow automation and customization, mail processing and digitization, and security and data privacy.
Trend #1: The Rise of AI
Incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology into legal practice is no longer a “new” frontier. It’s become accessible in our day-to-day lives—with offerings from companies such as Microsoft, Nvidia, and OpenAI. While we are still a far cry from AI lawyers replacing human lawyers, AI could revolutionize the legal industry by automating mundane tasks such as legal research, document review, and contract analysis. It’s a tool to help lawyers do what they do every day but do their jobs more efficiently, such as by quickly and accurately reviewing large amounts of data or automatically classifying data based on content and context.
AI can be a valuable tool. But it’s important to ensure that AI tools are utilized responsibly and ethically and that good governance is employed. And this means establishing clear user policies and being mindful of the risks and benefits associated with these AI tools.
Trend #2: Hybrid and Remote Work
If the pandemic taught us one thing, it was that moving from a 100% office setup to an entirely virtual workspace almost overnight was possible. Switching to a hybrid or fully remote setup has several advantages for law firms and their employees. For one, it eliminates the need for a chunk of office space—one of the most significant expenses for firms. Another advantage comes in wooing talent, which increasingly demands flexible remote work options.
With hybrid and remote work settings, we see an upsurge in collaboration between co-workers and clients. To facilitate communication and collaboration, firms are investing in technology such as Slack, Zoom, Asana, and Dropbox to accommodate this “new normal.”
With so much work between colleagues and clients shifting online comes a need for strong Information governance policies to guarantee data security and compliance. What third-party and cloud-based solutions are being used by your employees? Are their levels of security and privacy protocols leaving them vulnerable to breaches and cyberattacks?
Implementing a comprehensive security and data governance strategy is critical to safeguard information and sensitive data. This includes measures such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and regular security audits. Moreover, you need policies and procedures to ensure all employees know their data security and privacy responsibilities and provide training on those protocols. And lastly, have a plan of action to respond to any security incidents or data breaches.
Trend #3: Cloud Flexibility
Law firms are moving to the cloud in droves. It’s easy to understand why. Cloud-based solutions provide greater flexibility and scalability. Firms can access data from any location at any time, which improves collaboration with clients and colleagues. Cloud-based solutions are being used to store and share documents, as well as to access legal research. Moreover, cloud-based systems are more cost-effective than the alternative of buying servers, maintaining IT, and hiring more staff to keep everything running.
Many of the same best practices outlined for hybrid and remote work apply to cloud-based solutions. It’s important to establish data security policies and to ensure they are protected from unauthorized access. Tech-savvy law firms have a reliable backup and recovery system in place to ensure operational continuity, as well as a plan for migrating data to the cloud and implementing cloud-based solutions, with all stakeholders being aware of implementation timelines and guidelines.
Trend #4: Workflow Automation and Customization
Workflow automation and customization is another trend that can help lawyers and law firms streamline their processes and improve efficiency. The process uses software to automate and customize legal functions such as document generation and management, time tracking, client communication, and more. Many law firms now have workflow automation and customization software and processes in place.
Before beginning workflow automation and customization processes, first, establish the goals you want to accomplish. What are your firm’s particular needs and budget? Research different workflow automation and customization software options to find one that meets your requirements and ensures the software is secure and reliable. Make sure to properly train staff on these applications and processes to get the most out of your investment.
Trend #5: Mail Processing and Digitization
Digitizing, electronically filing, and applying information governance principles to documents is a trend rapidly gaining traction in the legal industry. This process allows faster document processing, reduces costs associated with manual document processing, and improves accuracy and security.
Law firms should use secure document scanning systems so that all documents are correctly scanned and stored. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or text recognition technology can help extract data from scanned documents and ensure documents are correctly indexed and stored in a secure digital repository.
And make sure your new system is compatible with existing systems and processes. When your system is up and running, regularly audit and monitor it to ensure all documents are appropriately scanned and stored.
Trend #6: Security and Data Privacy
Finally, one of the most pressing trends is security and data privacy. Law firms must prioritize data security and privacy given the sensitive nature of the data they manage and the need to protect their and their clients’ confidential data.
Lawyers must remain aware of the various security and data privacy regulations that can affect their operations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in California, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.
Staying abreast of these laws ensures your office remains compliant. The penalties for violating the GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA vary depending on the severity of the violation. For GDPR violations, organizations can be fined up to 4% of their global annual turnover or €20 million (whichever is greater). For CCPA violations, the fine is up to $7,500 per violation. For HIPAA violations, fines can be up to $1.5 million per violation.
A comprehensive data security policy outlining the procedures for handling and protecting sensitive data is imperative for every law firm. Ensure employees are trained on the best data security practices and regularly review and update your security measures.
By staying abreast of the latest technological trends, you can remain competitive and provide clients with the most up-to-date services that serve them and your business well. And you’ll remain at the forefront of the industry.
About the Author
- Anthony Forde is founder and president of VDS, a leading IT services provider helping organizations manage their digital and physical workspaces, and provider of FiT, the first information governance software suite for complete document creation, retention, and disposition workflow. He has over 25 years of experience helping law firms to stay ahead of the technological curve. He also helped lead the creation of information governance, document management, SaaS, and portal solutions for AMLaw 200.