Digital disruption in the Legal Sector - is your firm prepared?


Graduation season is upon us with Universities around the world releasing thousands of newly qualified students in hundreds of different professional spheres. Congratulations are due to the students for the many hours of hard work and to the universities for educating this bright young talent ready to contribute to society. Some of these graduates will take time out to reflect on whether the study programme they started is what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives, others will start companies of their own believing that their ideas will disrupt existing practices and approaches, a few may have concluded that they might need to re-skill already as their chosen professions are already changing.

Lynda Gratton a professor of management practice at London Business School recently stated, “In the future, every conceivable job will have new technologies to learn and new personal relationships to navigate as those roles fit and refit into a changing economic landscape”.

One of the things I hope these graduates have been taught during their university life is that the jobs they should have been prepared for may not exist yet and that the jobs that do exist possibly won’t be here tomorrow. Some industries have already seen technology disrupt and in some cases eliminate roles altogether, no more so than the retail profession. As the pace of change continues to accelerate unabated, we are on the cusp of some incredible if not scary developments.  If driverless cars are a reality, why not pilotless aeroplanes? Last year Boeing’s Pilot Outlook Reports estimated the need for over 790,000 pilots over the next two decades. One answer is more training schools the other answer is better technology.

Digital transformation through technology application has started to impact industries often seen as stable and secure and will continue to do so in ways that we cannot yet imagine. The disruption is going to be so significant that if we don’t prepare, we will see certain professions change beyond recognition and those skills the new graduates have may become obsolete. I believe one of those industries facing significant disruption is the legal sector.

The most recent Law Society sector forecast, released on 22nd August 2018, indicated that the sector growth is relatively flat, and if not for the “B” word, it could already be in a decline. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit discussion’s and the UK Government leadership contest, lawyers will for a short while continue to generate revenues from regulatory reforms Brexit will present. However, the overall outlook is a stagnant market. When we see the combination of slow growth and maturity we can see a market that is ready for some technology disruption. In the same way that the financial services sector has been disrupted by FinTech, LegalTech will disrupt the legal profession.

A Forbes report published in January 2019 stated, “Legal technology set a record in 2018 with a 718% growth in investments made to tech start-ups”. So, what is happening?

A combination of developing AI technologies and their application into labour-intensive areas of the profession is already attracting huge investment, especially around e-Discovery (in layman’s terms an electronic service for finding relevant information about research and lawsuits). In other areas technology is being applied into platforms that disintermediate, removing the lawyers from the equation altogether.  Earlier this month 22-year-old Joshua Browder secured a £3.7m investment to help his UK based robot lawyer application fight parking tickets, bank fees, and unfair charges. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The impact of tech innovation to this long-standing mature industry is going to see profound changes in the coming months and years. Just like the few university students who already see the need to re-skill, some legal firms are already starting to think about how to innovate and apply technology before it is applied to them. A smaller subset is considering how to apply systems thinking to the process of how to innovate using innovation management technology like smartcrowds® from software company Bridgeall.

The world is changing, the technology sector is going to change for sure and LegalTech will continue to make a massive impact. If you want to hear more, watch out for the next blog in this series and our forthcoming webinar with an expert in innovation processes and an innovation leader from one of our Legal sector customers.

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