In August 2017, Thomson Reuters revealed analysis showing a whopping 484% increase in patents for legal services technology, predominantly in the United States, China, and South Korea. Such facts provide strong evidence that we are on the cusp of a technological revolution wave in the legal industry, and this has the potential to radically shift how law services are provided. But did you know that much of this change is coming from technology providers and innovators, as opposed to law firms, looking to disrupt how law expertise is administered?
Looking forward to 2019, the possibilities for how legal services delivery will change are almost endless. One particularly strong line of thinking is that we will enter an era whereby technology will be the enabler of a new worldwide legal delivery model, impervious to borders, which is privately funded, accessible, and highly efficient. In this article, we will seek to understand how this might work, what is driving it, and the opportunities for those in the law sector and those seeking justice.
What might this new global legal services delivery model look like?
The sky truly is the limit. Rather than traditional law firms servicing their local markets, many believe the future will likely see multinational technology firms providing legal services regardless of geography, providing wider access to justice, and dispensing with many of the wasteful, inefficient, slow, and frankly unnecessary traditional aspects of present-day law practice.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to make commodity legal work available to anyone in a manner that is robust, consistent, rapid, and easily accessible.
What is the driving force behind a new model of legal service delivery?
The opening up of the legal market is not a new concept. In 2007, the Legal Services Act sought to ‘liberalise’ the market for legal services to encourage competition. Specifically, the Act enabled non-lawyers to management or own businesses that provide legal services. At the same time, gallons of money has been pouring into legal services innovation, in large part because the legal industry is ripe for transformation, and digital technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now ready to make an impact. In short, all forces have now converged, and the legal services industry will be forever transformed because of it.
A new worldwide, border-free model of legal service delivery is the next logical extension of this explosion of change. Why?
Firstly, just looking at the trend for tech companies tells us a great deal. Silicon Valley giants such as Uber, Apple, and Google show us that these firms don’t just want a local presence, they want global domination. There are now many start-ups, incubators, and innovation zones dedicated to legal tech across the world, and it would be short-sighted to believe these will not create global legal service offerings.
Secondly, more law firms are looking to collaborate or seek tie-ins with overseas businesses to offer legal services in new geographies. One example of this is Taylor Vinters, who entered into a cross-ownership partnership with Via Law (forming Taylor Vinters Via) in Singapore to provide IP, tech, media & telecoms law for clients in South East Asia and Japan.
Next, there is a fundamental lack of access to justice in many places across the world. Technology will help to facilitate access to legal expertise and representation for those in society who have traditionally not had this basic right. The US based Council for Foreign Relations believes this is necessary, stating, “loosely based ‘Lawyers Without Borders’ would ensure the rules of the global economy work for everyone, not just the rich and powerful”.
Finally, the global nature of the internet, and the current explosion of new legal services software is going to make this new legal service delivery possible – as evidenced by the explosion of legal technology patents mentioned at the outset of this article.
As 2018 draws to an end, there is a sense that the legal industry is truly embracing the 21st century, as so many industries have already. The delivery of legal services in the future will not be the exclusive ambit of law firms; the technology industry is already making sure of that. So, the question is, how can law firms start to embrace this new world? By forming relationships with technology companies and looking outwardly to new trends in law practice internationally, law firms that are yet enter this new world can do so; it is not too late.
The common view is that this new legal world will not marginalise lawyers, but equally traditional law firms will no longer be the predominant purveyors of law, but they will be operating in a global marketplace for legal services, whether wanted or not.
To find out more about Litigation Funding, or legal finance which can assist with freeing up capital to invest in technology, please contact us on 0333 222 5731 or talk to your solicitor.
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