Tag Archives: Legal Tech

Video conferencing

The Coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way we work. Working remotely has become the new normal. An important part of working remotely, is the ability to have virtual meetings and that is where video conferencing comes into the picture. The sudden explosion of video conferencing affects the legal profession, too. Lawyers meet in video chats with their clients as well as with their colleagues. In several countries, notaries are now offering their services online and no longer require parties to be physically present as long as they can join a video conference. And courts, too, have started handling cases where parties and their lawyers are not attending physically, but in video conferences.

There are several advantages to having virtual meetings. Important at present is that by not having to meet in person, one avoids the risk of getting contaminated by anyone attending the meeting who might be infected. But also important is that virtual meetings save a lot of time and reduce costs, since there is no need for transport, etc.

So, what do you need to start video conferencing? First, you need a device with a camera and a microphone. Most smart phones, tablets, and laptops have built-in microphones and cameras that will do the job perfectly. If you are using a desktop computer, however, chances are you will have to acquire a separate microphone and camera to hook up to your computer. Secondly, you need to use video conferencing software. Let us have a closer look at those.

Several packages are on offer. When deciding which one to choose, you will have to consider what your specific needs and desires are. Do you need the ability to share documents or collaborate on them during the meeting? Do you want to be able to share your desktop with other people in the meeting, so you can show them certain items, e.g., do a presentation? How secure is the software? Is the software easy to use and accessible? Will your clients have to install an app? What devices and platforms are supported? What support options are available? Etc.

When it comes to the cost, video conferencing packages come in three varieties: first, there are packages that are free. Then, there are packages that use a Freemium model, where the basic offering is free, and you pay for additional features. And lastly, there are packages that you always must pay for because they don’t offer a free option.

In recent weeks, both Tech Radar Magazine and PC Magazine dedicated articles to the best video conferencing packages available. (Links below). We will give an overview of the seven most popular options and go into a little more detail on Microsoft Teams.

GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com). GoToMeeting is a mobile-friendly app that is available in 3 versions, one free and two paying. Meetings are held in a virtual conference rooms, that can also be accessed by a browser via a custom URL. It is easy to use and offers useful apps for enhanced productivity. It is recommended by PC Magazine for small businesses and consumers.

Skype (www.skype.com). Most people are familiar with Skype, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. It comes in 3 versions, a free version, a Skype for Business Basic version, and a full Skype for Business version. A copy of the free version is typically preinstalled on Windows 10 computers. If you have a version of Office 365 or Microsoft 365, you should have access to one of the paid versions of Skype. Skype excels in its cross-platform support and offers features like live subtitles and screen sharing. Skype meetings, too, can be accessed in a browser. It has a limit of maximum 50 people attending a meeting.

Google Hangouts (hangouts.google.com). Google Hangouts come in 2 versions, a free version, and a Google Hangouts Meet version, which is part of the G Suite set of applications, and fully integrates with them. It is accessible and simple, and the paying version is designed specifically to meet business needs. It can handle large numbers of participants. Google Hangouts can be accessed in a browser, or via dedicated apps.

Cisco Webex (www.webex.com). Cisco Webex comes in 2 versions, a free version and a paid one, which you may have access to if you are an existing Cisco customer. It is limited in features, but can handle up to 100 participants, with the restriction that only 25 of them can be included in the video stream simultaneously. PC Magazine recommends it for large organizations and existing Cisco customers.

Zoom Meeting (www.zoom.com). Zoom probably is the most popular video conferencing platform at the moment. It comes in a free and a paid version. It is easy to use, offers many features and excellent performance. It is limited to 100 participants. Zoom has been in the news, however, for security and privacy issues. If you plan to use it, some tweaks in the settings are needed to make it more secure. PC magazine calls it the best solution for small businesses and consumers.

Bluejeans (www.bluejeans.com). Bluejeans comes in three different paying versions. It offers an excellent service that includes whiteboards and screen sharing. Unique is its Dolby-powered directional audio experience, where you hear each participant in a separate location. It can be used in a browser, or via dedicated apps for mobile or desktop. PC Magazine calls it the best option for collaboration and shared meetings.

Microsoft Teams (teams.microsoft.com). Microsoft Teams is part of the Microsoft 365 for Business subscriptions. (Until recently, those were called Office 365 for Business). It is highly customizable and offers plenty of features that integrate tightly with other Microsoft 365 applications. It not only comes as a full-fledged desktop app, but there also are mobile versions, and can even be used in a Chromium-based browser, like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Certain features, however, like desktop sharing are only available in the desktop app. It is recommended by PC Magazine for large businesses that operate within the Microsoft environment.

Note that as a law firm, you are probably using Microsoft 365 for Business or Microsoft 365 Premium for Business, which means Microsoft Teams is included in the package. It is not a specific video conferencing tool, but rather a collaboration tool that offers chat and video conferencing functionality. Any of the Microsoft / Office 365 apps can be launched from within the Teams desktop app, making it even easier to share and collaborate with other Team members. You can have multiple teams for multiple projects. It is possible to split the work of a team up in sections and channels, which allows for better project management.

Finally, some additional tips that will improve your video conferencing experience:

  • Counterintuitive as it may seem, the audio experience is more important than the visual experience during a video conference. People don’t mind if the video is of slightly lower quality but do mind low audio quality. Make sure you have a decent microphone and loudspeakers.
  • Make sure your camera is at eye-height, and make sure you look into the camera when speaking.
  • Pay attention to lighting: make sure there is sufficient light, that the light source is facing you and pointed away from the camera. (Do not sit in front of a bright window, e.g., where people only see your silhouette against a brightly lit background).
  • When you are attending a meeting with several participants, do not forget that even when you are not speaking, you are on camera, and everybody can see you and your environment.
  • If it is not necessary for you to be visible at a given time, consider switching off your camera for that time.

Happy video conferencing!

 

Addendum 1: on 21 April 2020, Microsoft officially changed the name of Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home to Microsoft 365 Personal, and Microsoft 365 Family respectively.

Addendum 2: as of May 2020, Google has made Google Hangouts Meet available for free.

Addendum 3: as of 2 June 2020, Microsoft has made a free version of Teams available.

 

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Legal Tech Predictions for 2020

In two previous articles, we paid attention to the legal technology trends of 2019. Most of those are expected to continue in 2020. Apart from those, several authors made their own predictions, too, for what legal technology will bring in 2020. We’ll summarize the most interesting and important ones below.

Now, when looking at all the predictions, three items stand out. The first one is the omnipresence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Whether we’re talking about legal service delivery (to lawyers as well as legal consumers), marketing, cybersecurity, eDiscovery, etc., there is no escaping AI. Secondly, the general mantra for 2020 seems to be ‘automate, automate, automate’. And thirdly, the cloud, too, becomes more and more omnipresent.

Market: The judiciary finally boards the train of legal tech and automation. Authors predict an increase is online courts, in courts using case management software, and in using legal analytics to speed up decision making.

When it comes to the service providers on the legal market, experts expect some cross-industry mashups, where players from other markets (e.g. accounting, analytics & data mining) join forces with legal service providers.

The trend where law firms are being run like business continues, with law firms hiring more people who have joint business and law degrees.

Law Firm Management Software: authors expect the trend of focusing on process automation to increase efficiency to continue, which will allow law firms to scale their services. Many predict that law firms will finally start becoming more client-centred, with a heavy focus on improving the client experience, and on client collaboration through improved client portals.

Cloud: as mentioned before, the usage of the cloud in the legal market is expecting to keep on rising. When it comes to lawyers using the cloud, security will remain a main challenge. The good news is that many predictions see the clouds getting connected, i.e. they predict that the interoperability between the different cloud platforms will increase. Experts also see a rise in edge computing, and an accelerated adoption of PaaS (Platform as a Service).

(Google Maps is a good example to explain what edge computing is. Google uses servers all over the world. When you use Google Maps in your area, you’re presented with a local copy of the information that is stored on a server near to you. Edge computing means that the information storage and the computation power are distributed to bring them closer to where they are needed. PaaS: the Wikipedia defines it as “a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app.”)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most predictions have to do with Artificial Intelligence. In general, the experts expect advances in NLP (Natural Language Processing), conversational AI (chatbots), Computer Vision, and Reinforcement Learning (a type of Machine Learning). More specific for the legal market, most authors talk about how the work of lawyers changes as AI and automation will take over certain tasks lawyers and paralegals were performing until now, and how this will increase the efficiency of law firms. The increased usage of AI is also expected to have an impact on compliance, research, due diligence, and legal documentation (creation, analysis and review of legal documents).

Apart from that, there are also more specific predictions. Law firms are expected to start using more data-driven legal marketing, predictive legal analytics, and Virtual Assistants. AI is also expected to start contributing to finding new legal solutions.

Most of the predictions about Security are rather dire. All experts warn about deepfakes and that there will be a considerable increase in incidents of security breaches, both on-premise and in the cloud. Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being used by both cybercriminals and by those fighting cybercrime.

eDiscovery: the experts see three trends and three challenges. The trends are a) that eDiscovery continues its move to the cloud; b) that the line between e-discovery and information governance will continue to blur; and c) the continued increase of AI usage. A first challenge has to do with the tension between eDiscovery and privacy legislation with regard to analytics. A second challenge lies in the increase of atypical data sources like ephemeral messaging, IoT device data, collaboration tools and app-based information. A third challenge is how to deal with an increase in deepfakes and fabricated evidence.

When it comes to Blockchain, the experts don’t agree. Some point at the fact that thus far, there has been far more hype than actual results. Most of them, however, are expecting an increase in real-life applications in the legal market. At the same time, they also expect more cases of Blockchain fraud and litigation.

 

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The Legal Technology Trends of 2019, part 2

In November, the American Bar Association (ABA) published its annual Legal Technology Survey Report. The report typically is accompanied by a series of detailed reports on specific subjects, that are published over a period of several weeks. In a previous article we dealt with the first three of those reports. In this article, we’ll have a look at the next five, which deal with practice management, budgeting and planning, technology training, solo and small firms. A ninth report was published on lawyer well-being, but it largely repeats items raised in the other reports.

Firm Culture

When it comes to demographics, the report found that the majority of respondents, no less than 71%, were male, although the gender gap decreased as age decreased. 33% of respondents was between 60-69, while less than 2% were under 29 years old; 21% were in their 50s.

With the exception of solo lawyers, the vast majority of lawyers still mainly work from a traditional office space. 34% of solo lawyers work from home. Overall, the profession keeps flexible working hours (offered by 77% of law firms) and mobile: roughly 50% of lawyers have telecommuted. 88% of those who telecommute work from home.

The report also found that there is a large and continuing gap between what the larger firms offer in terms of amenities, cyber protection, and training and what smaller firms offer.

Overall, lawyers are still working too hard, and continue to not acknowledge the strain this puts on their mental health.

Practice Management

Law Technology Today summarizes the following key points regarding the survey’s findings on practice management solutions.

Usage and satisfaction of Practice Management software: while the rest of the world increasingly relies more and more on technology, the legal profession hasn’t really followed suit. The use of practice management software has been more or less stagnant for the last four years. The majority of users of these packages remains satisfied with their usage.

Need for improvement and all-inclusiveness: one of the main problems with practice management software is that most of them are still only offering partial solutions. There isn’t any program that handle every aspect of law firm management. As a result, law firms typically must rely on several programs, where their interoperability leaves much to be desired.

Rise of CRM as an alternative: as a result of the limitations of existing practice management software, there has been an increase in the usage of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions in law firms.

Shifts in the Use of Laptops, Computers, and Mobile Devices: 57% of lawyers still use a desktop computer as their primary work computer. This confirms the downward trend of the last years and corresponds to the increase in the use of laptops as the main work computer, which now stands at 41%. This shift towards laptop computers can be seen mainly in large firms, followed by medium sized firms. For small firms the increase in laptop usage was limited to a 1% increase (to 35%), and for solo lawyers, the number remained the same at 40%.

The Continuing Increase of Remote Access: one of the main findings of the report is that lawyers are increasingly using remote access, with 73% of lawyers using telecommuting technologies in 2019, compared to 68% last year. These are mainly used to occasionally work from home.

Consistency of Fee Structures and the Adoption of New Technology: there was little change in how law firms charge. Most law firms, 69%, are still using hourly fees. Fixed fees saw a slight increase from 15 to 17%, which came at the expense of contingent fees which fell from 11 to 9%. Other fee structures remained the same.

Budgeting and Planning

There is some good news when it comes to budgeting and planning: in 2019, the law firms that have a budget for technology slightly increased their spending. Solo firms spent about the same as last year, and have no intention of spending more next year, where all other firms that have a budget intend to increase it for next year.

The report also advises to consider budgeting for technology training (see below), and to start using metrics to measure technology usage and the track what is working and what isn’t. “Plan well, spend wisely, and prioritize accordingly; technology is and will remain an essential part of running a law firm.” (Law Technology Today)

Technology Training

In 2019, lawyers need technology to efficiently run their practice. In fact, by now most bar associations require lawyers to be familiar with “the risks and benefits associated with technology”. To be able to use that technology effectively, training is essential. A majority of 82% of lawyers understand that technology training is important. The bad news is that in 2019, fewer attorneys had access to technology training at their law firms. Barely more than half of the attorney respondents to the survey had technology training available at their firms. The chance of having training available at the firm rises with the size of the firm, as was the case in previous years. Interestingly, the report also warns that solo lawyers may be overestimating their technology competence and underestimating their need for training.

Solo and Small Firms

Solo and small firms (with 2 to 9 attorneys) still form the majority of law firms: with 32% and 31% respectively, they’re good for 63% of law firms. When looking at the ages of the lawyers, the largest (10-year) segment consists of lawyers between 60-69.

The survey found that technology adoption among solo and small firms appears to be stagnant or declining. The only exception is the use of practice management software, which slightly more solo and small firms are using in 2019 than before. As mentioned before, rather alarmingly, less than 50% of solo and small law firms use file and email encryption, file access restriction, intrusion prevention and detection, web filtering, whole or full desk encryption, or employee monitoring.

 

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The Legal Technology Trends of 2019, Part 1

Traditionally, towards the end of the calendar year, two reports are published that shed a light on the state of, and current trends in legal technology. The American Bar Association (ABA) publishes its annual Legal Technology Report (often referred to as the ABA Tech Report), while Clio also publishes an annual report on trends related to legal technology. These two reports differ greatly in scope: where the ABA report is comprehensive, the Clio report tends to focus on one specific aspect. Also noteworthy is that after the ABA publishes its full report, it always publishes a series of articles, focusing on a specific theme. For each of these, it offers a summary and analysis of the findings of the report. Those articles are published over several weeks. At the time of writing, six out of nine have been published. In this article, we’ll have a look at the Clio Report, and at the first three articles on the ABA Tech Report. Next month, when all the articles will have been published, we’ll have a look at the remaining six articles on the ABA Tech Report.

In this year’s legal trends report, Clio investigated how 1000 law firms responded to prospective new clients who asked them some questions, either by mail or by telephone. They chose five common topics, and then sent 1000 mails with related questions to law firms that deal with those topics. They also made 500 phone calls.

The surprising findings of the report clearly demonstrate that law firms struggle to adequately respond to client inquiries. An astonishing sixty percent of law firms did not respond to the emails at all, and twenty-seven percent of firms did not answer or return phone calls. As part of its investigation, Clio also surveyed 2000 legal consumers on what their expectations were when approaching a law firm with their legal issue. Based on how these expectations were met, they created a scorecard for each of the 1000 law firms. Only two of the 1,000 firms surveyed got an excellent rating when it came to replying to emails. Things were only slightly better for the telephone responses, where 20 firms — or 7 percent of the total — received an excellent rating. There clearly is a lot of work to be done.

Let us now continue with the ABA Tech Report and have a closer look on its findings with regard to cloud computing, security, and websites and marketing.

Cloud computing

As was to be expected, the number of lawyers that use cloud services is still growing, with 58% of lawyers replying they were doing so, compared to 55% in 2018. As was the case in previous years, solo and small law firms lead the way, with cloud adoption around 60%. But compared to the rest of the business world, lawyers are still slow to move to the cloud.

The most important finding regarding cloud usage by lawyers, however, was the lack of security measures taken by lawyers when working in the cloud. The report warns that the situation is reaching a crisis point, as there were significant drops in the use of very standard cybersecurity practices. “Although lawyers say that confidentiality, security, data control and ownership, ethics, vendor reputation and longevity, and other concerns weigh heavily on their minds, the employment of precautionary security measures is quite low, with no more than 35% (down from 38%) of respondents actually taking any one of the specific standard cautionary cybersecurity measures listed in the 2019 Survey question on the topic.” (Law Technology Today).

Security

Last year’s report concluded that ” All attorneys and law firms should have appropriate comprehensive, risk-based security programs that include appropriate safeguards, training, periodic review and updating, and constant security awareness.” The same still holds true in 2019. In some areas, progress has been made, but as the situation with cloud usage demonstrates, other areas still need a lot of work. Most law firms need to take extra steps in designing and implementing security solutions.

Some statistics:

  • 26% of law firms reported having experienced a security breach in the last year, while a staggering 19% didn’t know.
  • In 2019, 31% of law firms reported having an incident response plan, up from 25% in 2018.
  • When it comes to encryption, 44% of lawyers encrypt their files; 38% encrypt their mail, and 22% use full disk encryption.
  • 33% of lawyers have cyber liability insurance, compared to 34% in 2018.

Websites and marketing

When it comes to marketing, the report again found there is much room for improvement, especially for solo lawyers and small law firms. The survey revealed that most of them do not have a planned approach to marketing in general, are clueless about online marketing, and may instead be engaging in “random acts of marketing.” For many law firms, it is unclear who oversees marketing, who is making the decisions and why. Law Technology Today summarizes the findings as follows: “The 2019 Survey results show that law firms—and especially solos and small firms—have a long way to go. Unless they begin to develop marketing plans and budgets, establish an online presence and regularly analyze whether their firms are reaching their targets, they will continue to face increasing difficulty competing for business.”

Some statistics:

  • Only 47% of law firms have a marketing budget, with some considerable discrepancies depending on the size of the firm: 94% of large firms, 61% of medium-sized firms (10 to 49 lawyers), 21 % of small firms (2-9 lawyers), and 17% of solo lawyers.
  • 86% of law firms have a website: solo lawyers are again lagging behind, with only 57% of them having one, whereas over 90% of all the others have a website.
  • The number of law firms with a blog has remained stable since 2016 at 30%, with solo lawyers again staying behind at only 9%.
  • More lawyers than ever – about 80% – are using social media. LinkedIn is still the most used platform at 79%, followed by Facebook (54%), Martindale (38%), and Avvo (23%). Noteworthy is that the reported use of Facebook and Avvo has declined over the past year.

Next month, we will have a look at the other findings of the report.

 

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Legal Technology Predictions for 2019

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time when the experts make their predictions for the year to come. The field of legal technology is no exception. Most of the predictions focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and security, but there also are predictions with regard to the legal market in general, the cloud, and eDiscovery. Let’s have a closer look.

Legal Market

The American Bar Association’s 2018 Legal Technology Report revealed that in 2018 fewer law firms invested in legal technology than in 2017. Because of this, experts expect a stagnation in the amount of law firms who are investing in legal technology. The amount of money being invested by law firms still is increasing, as is the amount of money being invested by legal technology solution providers. The legal technology market itself is therefore expected to keep on expanding.

Experts do not anticipate significant changes in the software and services that the lawyers are using, nor in how law firms are charging their clients. The market of Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSPs) will keep on growing, and some of these Alternative Legal Services Providers will come into their own as major players.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

IBM predicts three major breakthroughs in the field of AI which will lead enterprises to increasingly advance, scale, and trust artificial intelligence. These three breakthroughs are:

  1. Causality will increasingly replace correlations: at present Machine Learning algorithms discovers patterns, i.e. correlations, but the nature of those correlations still hasn’t been qualified. The breakthrough will consist in qualifying those correlations and determine what is cause and effect.
  2. Trusted AI will take centre stage: methodologies are being developed for a better cooperation between humans and AI, where humans can trust the output generated by AI systems.
  3. Quantum computing could give AI an assist: technologies like Deep Learning require serious computing power. Quantum computing has the potential to dramatically increase computing power.

The experts that Forbes Magazine consulted make five predictions:

  1. AI increasingly becomes a matter of international politics
  2. A Move Towards “Transparent AI” (i.e. where AI systems can reveal how they draw their conclusions. This ties in with the concept of “trusted AI”, mentioned above).
  3. AI and automation are drilling deeper into every business
  4. More jobs will be created by AI than will be lost to it.
  5. AI assistants will become truly useful

In a separate article, other experts predict a rise in applications that combine video, voice and AI to improve human interactions, sales, customer service, and meetings.

More specific to the field of Legal AI, experts predict an increase in smart contracts, as well as an increased use of blockchain based solutions. Law firms are becoming smarter in what technologies to use, which leads to a higher adoption of legal AI: AI will augment existing solutions. AI is also expected to play a more important role in the design of legal software and its interfaces. One expert predicts that the increased usage of AI will lead to lower fees, thus facilitating access to justice. One of the fields that is expected to grow is legal analytics (including judicial analytics). As a result of this the roles of Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) or Chief Data Officer (CDO) will become more prevalent in law firms.

Cybersecurity

A lot of the predictions have to do with cybersecurity. Law firms have a lot of valuable data and are prime targets for cybercriminals.

One of the world’s foremost experts in building AI systems to detect malware points out that cybercriminals have started using what he calls “offensive AI”, i.e. AI systems that are specifically designed to attack computer systems. As a result, malware, e.g., gets smarter and better at evading protection against it. In turn, cybersecurity companies are increasingly using AI as well to ward off cyberattacks and to detect those technologies that are aimed at evading protection.

All experts anticipate cybercrime will rise in 2019. They expect increases in:

  • Data breaches and data leaks, with an emphasis on the latter
  • Browser crypto-mining, or crypto-jacking, i.e. where your browser is hijacked to mine cryptocurrencies
  • Web skimmers: just like you have hardware to illegally clone credit cards, web skimmers use websites to illegally get your credit card details
  • Expert specifically expect an increase in botnets that use “Internet of Things” devices
  • Dedicated Denial of Service (DDos) Attacks
  • Ransomware
  • Financial crime, i.e. cyberattacks on banks and other financial institutions
  • Email social engineering attacks, also known as BECs, or Business Email Compromises
  • Exploit kits, i.e. web-based applications that redirect users to malicious sites where they attempt to exploit a browser vulnerability to infect the user with malware.

Cloud servers, too, are in trouble in 2019. Cloud servers have slowly become the favourite target of cryptocurrency mining trojans.

As more and more hacking tools are becoming available, experts foresee an increase in underground communities of hackers and cybercriminals.

Malvertising will continue to gain sophistication in 2019.

Cloud

Over the last years, law firms have increasingly started using cloud technologies. That growth is expected to continue, as law firms have largely overcome their hesitance to use cloud-based solutions.

eDiscovery

The GDPR has had a great impact on legal eDiscovery. As more and more countries (and States within the US) are implementing similar legislation, experts believe we are reaching a tipping point for the protection of personal data privacy in legal discovery.

2019 will also see new ways to exploit the power of analytics across the entire e-discovery workflow. ‘Active learning’ will be used as a supplemental tool to support traditional reviews. And as eDiscovery requires data transfers to service providers, those transfers will increasingly become targets for hackers and cybercriminals.

We are also witnessing an increasingly globalized eDiscovery, and as a result there will be an increase in demand for translations.

Blockchain

In 2019, we will approach Blockchain more realistically. Many fantastic visions of 2017 and 2018 were a little ahead of schedule, and many projects have failed to deliver. With a more realistic approach, Blockchain will finally move past the hype into reality and Blockchain adoption is expected to spike across sectors, and to start converging with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Security experts anticipate that Blockchain will help prevent unauthorized access. They also see advancements in privacy-preserving techniques for blockchain: these techniques combined with blockchain can enable new decentralized applications that protect data while providing users with transparency and control over how data is used.

To address the issue of energy consumption costs, which are skyrocketing because of the computing power needed, in 2019 we will also see hardware-based acceleration of cryptographic techniques.

 

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What did 2018 bring on the Legal Technology front?

As we are taking our first steps into 2019, it may be useful to evaluate what 2018 brought us on the Legal Technology front. Robert Ambrogi, from lawsitesblog.com, published an article on the 20 most important Legal Technology developments in 2018. And, as usual, the American Bar Association (ABA) also published its annual Legal Technology Survey Report in December 2018, which offers great insights as well. Let us start with the latter.

The Full ABA Legal Techology Survey Report consists of six volumes:

  1. Technology Basics and Security
  2. Law Office Technology
  3. Online Research
  4. Marketing and Communication Technology
  5. Litigation Technology and E-Discovery
  6. Mobile Lawyers

These six volumes can be bought either separately, or combined, here. A summary of the survey in five separate reports can be read online for free here. These reports deal with:

  1. Budgeting and planning
  2. Solo and small firm
  3. Practice management
  4. Technology Training
  5. Litigation and TAR (Technology Assisted Review)

Here are the highlights.

One of the most surprising findings of the report is that the percentage of firms that budget for technology has undergone a slight decrease compared to last year. Where in 2017, 60 percent of law firms had a legal tech budget, that number is down to 57% in 2018. As was the case in the past, the percentage of law firms that have a technology budget increases with the firm’s size. The report found that 34 percent of solo respondents, 53 percent of firms of two to nine attorneys, 77 percent of firms of 10 to 49 attorneys, 83 percent of firms with 100 to 499 attorneys, and 87 percent of firms of 500 or more attorneys had technology budgets.

Another surprising finding is that while telecommuting or remote working overall is on the rise (as expected), it has decreased in larger firms. Among solo practitioners and law firms with 2-9 attorneys, the percentage of people who telecommute has gone up from 38% in 2015 to 46% in 2018, and from 58% in 2015 to 68% in 2018, respectively. In larger firms, however, the percentage has dropped from a high of 87% in 2015 to a low of 79% in 2018 in firms with 10-49 attorneys, and from a high of 94% in 2016 to a low of 88% in 2018 for the bigger ones.

Attorneys continue to use practice management software at a steady rate at firms of all sizes. The functionality of the software that is available to them hasn’t really changed in that managing clients and conflicts still is at the core of all of them. The amount of law firms using practice management software has remained steady over the last years (with the exception of some spikes in 2016).

Most attorneys are satisfied with the practice management software they use, as 32% reported “very satisfied” with the features and functions therein and 61% reporting “somewhat satisfied,” for a total of 93% that were somewhat or more satisfied.

Not much has changed with regard to the software law firms are using, and there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to integration with other applications.

The GDPR has had an important impact which resulted in the removal of quite a lot of metadata. The usage of software that focuses on the removal of metadata is rising, which benefits privacy and confidentiality.

Another finding of the report is that the line between tablets and laptops is blurring. In solo and small law firms, the percentage of tablet users dropped from 57% in 2016 to 47% in 2018. In larger firms, however, the number of tablet users has increased: in firms with 100-499 attorneys, the percentage has increased from 32% in 2015 to 53% in 2018. In firms with more than 500 attorneys, 39% of attorneys use tablets.

There is virtually no change in how lawyers charged in 2018, compared to 2017. Hourly fees remain the most popular (at 69%), followed by fixed fees (15%), contingency fees (11%, which depend on the result achieved), retainer fees (4%, where the client pays an advance on a regular basis, typically monthly), and other (1%).

In his article on The 20 Most Important Legal Technology Developments Of 2018, Robert Ambrogi mentions several developments that are relevant worldwide:

 

  • Analytics become essential: in 2018 more and more law firms started analysing the data they collect.
  • Legal tech goes global: until recently legal tech largely consisted of national playing fields, but now we are seeing more and more legal technology services that are being offered internationally.
  • Because of AI, Legal research gets smarter and more comprehensive.
  • Investment are increasing. In the US alone, $1 billion USD was invested in legal technology.
  • The cloud no longer looms ominous. More and more law firms have dropped their reservations and are now effectively using cloud services.
  • Tech competence gets real.
  • AI gets an MBA.
  • Startups continue to proliferate.

In conclusion: the legal technology market keeps evolving, but the use of legal technology in law firms has not taken any large steps in recent years.

 

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Online Reputation Management

Do you, as a lawyer, pay much attention to your online reputation? You should. Because, in 2018, legal consumers are online consumers, as the following statistics clearly show:

  • 96% of people with a legal issue use the Internet first to find answers with regard to their problem.
  • 38% of people looking to hire a lawyer turn to the Internet first. (29% ask a friend or relative, 10% go directly to the local bar association, 4% rely on business directories like the Yellow Pages).
  • Once legal consumers have narrowed down their search to one or more potential lawyers, 74% of all legal consumers will visit that lawyer’s or law firms’ websites first, before taking action.
  • 74% of all legal consumers end up contacting a lawyer they found on the Internet, and of those 74%, 87% end up hiring that lawyer.
  • 70% of law firms have generated new cases through their website in the last year.

In these circumstances, Online Reputation Management (ORM) is more than highly recommended.

But how do you start managing your online reputation? After all, as the team of Blue Ocean points out: “Reputation, by its very definition is a nebulous, intangible and complex concept. Trust, along with an excellent reputation as a legal resource, cannot be directly measured like income and expenses.”

The Wikipedia describes Online Reputation Management as “the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing information about that entity, primarily online. (…) Specifically, reputation management involves the monitoring of the reputation of an individual or a brand on the internet, addressing content which is potentially damaging to it, and using customer feedback to try to solve problems before they damage the individual’s or brand’s reputation.”

In other words, ORM is about influencing how you are perceived on the Internet. You can affect this perception through multiple channels:

  • Your website often will be responsible for a potential client’s first impression of you.
  • Make sure to use testimonials.
  • You can publish a blog to help establish you as an authority in your field.
  • You can engage people via social media and discussion groups, by answering questions and offering free advice.
  • Online consumers typically also look for reviews on third party websites. It is recommended to respond to those reviews. (More on that below).
  • There are search results in search engines.
  • Not to be forgotten are your profiles in business directories.

Practically speaking, the first step is finding out what is being said about you and your firm. So you can start by doing an online search about your firm. Make sure, too, to find out what is being said on online review sites, as online consumers are eager to know what the experiences are of others who have used your services. You want to augment positive reviews, and to address negative reviews.

Addressing negative reviews can be tricky, especially since there are ethical considerations. You must make sure you never reveal any confidential information! As a rule, the best response to a negative review is to not respond with specific details, but to issue an apology instead, and to ask for personal feedback and to be contacted privately to address the matter.

In 2018, addressing fake news is also a concern. Make sure you do not give out false information about yourself (or your clients), and make sure to address any false information about you or your firm that might be available online.

Apart from addressing any factors that might damage your reputation, you can also more proactively start building a positive reputation through the channels mentioned above: your website, testimonials, blog articles, engagement with potential clients via social media and discussion groups, professional profiles in business directories, etc. Here, too, however, it is important to remain aware of ethical considerations, which may be specific to the bar association you belong to. Most bar associations do not allow lawyers to directly solicit clients. Some bar associations do not even allow lawyers to actively ask for reviews or testimonials.

 

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Legal Tech Trends Predictions for 2018

The beginning of a new calendar year traditionally is a time where the experts publish reviews of the year that has been, and make predictions for the year that is starting. Let us have a look at what 2017 brought to the field of legal technology, and at some predictions for 2018.

Review of 2017

Legal Tech News published a slide show on the three technologies that redefined legal technology in 2017. They are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

2017 saw an increase of AI in the legal workplace. It is being used already in contract management, eDiscovery, cybersecurity, and in legal research. And some major law firms started using AI legal assistants. Robot lawyers and legal chatbots, too, frequently made headlines. And when it comes to the legal aspects of using AI, a court ordered that there should be more transparency in to how AI systems reach their conclusions, and that the algorithms they use must be published.

Bitcoin often was in the news, too. Its underlying technology, Blockchain, however is not just important for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies but is already being used, e.g., for smart contracts that are made and executed automatically.

2017 also saw a growth of the Internet of Things, as more and more devices are being connected to the Internet. Not surprisingly, we also saw more lawyers embracing cloud technologies, with more than half of the US based lawyers making use of them.

When it comes to cybersecurity, the Internet has become a more dangerous place in 2017. There has been an increase in systems being hacked, in denial of services attacks, in malware and, notably, in occurrences of ransomware. What we’ve witnessed in 2017 was that IoT devices like webcams, printers, routers, etc. that are connected to the Internet, were being used in cyberattacks. As a rule, large law firms are targeted more often than smaller ones, and those law firms that operate in the cloud are typically the least affected by cybercrime.

In 2017, legal tech solution providers all focused on using technology to streamline law firm processes, be it eDiscovery or Law Firm Management, etc.

Finally, we also saw several courts going online.

Predictions for 2018

Virtually all authors agree that most of the trends of 2017 will continue in 2018.

One evolution we are already witnessing is in increase in the integration between the 3 technologies that dominated 2017. Cloud-based AI is being built into IoT devices, e.g. in the user interfaces, security, and data mining to make predictive suggestions. Smart and intelligent contracts are just one example of AI teaming up with Blockchain technology. We can expect to see a lot of progress on that front.

Many experts made predictions with regard to AI. They expect AI to become more practical and less visible. They also expect AI to become more ubiquitous. Better Natural Language Processing will lead to better and more intelligent user interfaces. We will also witness the integration of AI in web and mobile apps. The rise of machine learning and data mining solutions will continue. In 2018, we will also encounter far more legal and other chatbots. Overall, AI will have a pivotal role in communication and collaboration.

Experts also expect a shift in the way lawyers approach marketing. As they slowly become more familiar with cloud technologies and social media, lawyers are expected to start trying newer ways of marketing, to replace the more traditional approach. Client-centred communication becomes more important. And more lawyers will start using marketing automation software.

When it comes to software for law firms, authors predict a further automation of practice and workflow processes. The efficiencies in the delivery of legal services brought about by innovation and technology will only increase. In 2018, the implementation of “smart automation” will deliver the most immediate results to organizations.

As far as cybercrime and cybersecurity are concerned, the experts expect more of the same. We will see that the IoT will be used more often for criminal purposes, which will make the challenge to remain safe online tougher. The experts also predict that cybercriminals will start using more AI to be able to stage more sophisticated attacks. One alarming evolution is the increase in fake professional social media profiles that are being used by cybercriminals. Because of this increase in cyberthreats, more lawyers are expected to increase their cybersecurity budget in 2018. They are looking into securing their physical network, as well as their information. More lawyers will start using encryption in 2018.

Many experts also predict that more lawyers will start using more cloud-based solutions in 2018.

And we can expect more courts to go online.

 

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Lawyers in the Cloud

The American Bar Association recently published the results of its 2017 Legal Technology Survey. One of the key findings that really stand out, is that in 2017 more than half of the lawyers are using cloud computing. Where in 2015 only 30%, and in 2016 38% of lawyers were active in the cloud, that number has jumped to 52% in 2017.

The enthusiasm for cloud-based solutions is not shared equally by all lawyers. As was the case in previous years, cloud services are most embraced by solo and small law firm (2 to 9 lawyers), with 56% in both groups relying on cloud computing. For medium sized law firms, the number stands at 52% who are using web-based computing. Large law firms trail behind, with only 42%. As the graph below shows, for each group, there has been a steady growth in cloud adoption over the last few years.

Lawyers in the cloud
Percentage of Lawyers using Cloud Services in 2017

Overall, 31% of lawyers make online backups of their data. Again, the solo lawyers lead the way with 48% of solo lawyers making cloud back-ups.

The predictions for 2018 are that the popularity of cloud-based solutions will continue to grow. In a recent panel discussion, the panel members were asked to make legal technology and management predictions for 2018. Four out of nine members mentioned an accelerated adoption of legal cloud services. Overall, resistance to adoption is decreasing among lawyers as most providers of cloud-based services for lawyers have been on the market for a long time, and have plenty of experience. Because most lawyers are using Office 365, they have also become more familiar with using cloud services. One panel member observed that cloud services have become more all-encompassing and a lot less trouble and expensive than on-premise solutions.

The American Bar Association also asked why lawyers were using the cloud. The most important reasons are:

  • Easy browser access (73%). Everybody can use a browser and there’s at least one installed on every device with online access.
  • 24/7 availability (64%). You can have access at any time, from anywhere.
  • Low and predictable cost (48%). The entry fees for cloud-based legal solutions are fairly low, and they are typically billed either monthly or annually, making the cost predictable. Add to that, that you need to invest far less in hardware infrastructure.
  • Robust data backup and recovery (45%). If you use cloud-based solutions, the service provider typically takes care of data backups, and they have the in-house expertise to quickly get everything back up and running if needed. They typically also have disaster recovery plans (and the necessary infrastructure) that can be implemented instantly, or on very short notice.
  • Ability to quickly get it up and running (38%). Typically, all you need is a device with access to the Internet, and your subscription to the cloud service to get started. No need to buy, install or configure new hardware or software on premises.
  • Elimination of IT & software management requirements (30%). This is an important consideration for mainly solo lawyers and small law firms, as they don’t have to invest in managing an entire IT and software infrastructure. The cloud service provider makes sure the software works and is up to date.
  • Better security than can be provided in-house (25%). When you host your own servers, and provide Internet access to them, security is a constant concern. It’s not obvious to always have the latest patches, a perfectly configured firewall, etc. Because it’s part of their core business, external cloud service providers are experts in secure provision. More likely than not, your data will be safer in the cloud.

It is also worth noting that when using cloud-based services, you’re staying ahead of the curve, without having to worry whether the technology will cause any problems. This can be used as a business advantage. Cloud services also can give your law firm extra flexibility, which, again, can be used as a business advantage.

 

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Digital Marketing for Lawyers, part 2

This is a follow-up article to an article we published three months ago, which also dealt with digital marketing for lawyers. In it, we explained why digital marketing is important for lawyers and we also focused on some of the tools lawyers have at their disposal: websites, blogging, SEO, social media, reputation management and reviews.

Marketing often is something that lawyers see as a necessary evil. To make matters worse, online marketing is substantially different from traditional marketing. Some of this was discussed in our ‘Why Social Media Matter‘ article. In it, we explained that “the old ways of turning visitors into customers are not the most effective in an online paradigm. In the new online marketplace, everybody offering products or services must realise that they also are publishers, and that potential customers are content consumers. The way to turn website visitors into customers is to turn them into regular content consumers first.”

In this new marketplace, lawyers must publish websites and blogs, and engage with potential customers on social media. They must take things into account like user experience and website design; mobile functionality and local search presence. They have to focus on online intake of new clients, on customer service and client experience, as well as on reviews, reputation and authority. And most importantly, they have to work on how to turn website and blog visitors into regular content consumers, before they can be converted to clients.

So, practically speaking, where does one start? The first step is to know your audience and competitors. One of the advantages of the online marketplace is that we can have better access to all the pertinent data. We can learn who visits our website or blog, as well as who we are connected with on social media. This allows us to create visitor profiles, which then in turn allows us to better accommodate their wishes and expectations. It is important to keep the focus on potential customers, when determining what content to provide. At the same time, it is also important to keep track of what the competition is doing, so we can a) differentiate ourselves sufficiently, and b) remain competitive.

The next step is to then define an engagement strategy. The adage that content is king still applies. Know where your potential customers are on social media, and offer them relevant content. What has changed in 2017 is that the content people are looking for is no longer limited to quality text content. They also want visual content: infographics, e.g., are more popular than ever before, as is video content. So, make sure you use those. (In a future article, we’ll deal more in depth with content marketing specifically).

The way to further finetune your strategies and to find out what works for your law firm is, again, to diligently keep track of the relevant metrics. Find out what pages on your website and blog are popular. Discover how people found them. Learn what posts on social media led to visitors of your website and blog.

If you are familiar with some of the more traditional marketing techniques, then Teresa Matich’s article on “How to Take Your Old School Marketing Techniques Online” on the Wishpond blog can be useful. She illustrates how online marketing uses different tools, and that we have to move:

  • from business cards to websites: 96% of people with a legal issue turn to the Internet first, and nearly 40% of people needing a lawyer look on the Internet first to find one.
  • from public speaking to blogging: you build a reputation by publishing high quality articles on the Internet.
  • from the phone book to online ratings directories: people no longer just want to find a lawyer, they want to know whether he or she is any good, and they will look for online reviews.
  • from bus stop ads to Facebook ads: people looking for a lawyer spend just over a quarter of their time doing so on social media, so it makes sense to advertise on them.

 

Alex Barthet, a Miami based lawyer, gives some additional useful advice, based on his personal experiences with online marketing.

  • Claim your online profiles: online services like Google, Yelp, and Avvo let you create profiles. Often these are among the first places potential clients go looking.
  • Also claim your social profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Be careful with paid profiles: they usually offer very little extra value.
  • Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising carefully, and make sure to determine a maximum budget that cannot be exceeded.
  • Don’t fall for sales pitches from marketing companies that want to lock you into long-term contracts.

 

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