From autonomous vehicles to blockchain currency, technological development is not only changing workplaces but even industries. How fast will technology have a significant impact on the legal industry remains a very open question. These are the top three trends all law students should be aware of.
On a very basic level, artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of computer programs to think and learn. Everything from your smartphone to your car uses AI; think about the time you asked Siri to give you directions to the nearest steak restaurant. The potential of the technology is huge: self-driving cars can learn how to drive just like humans, drones can figure out the safest route for delivery, Amazon can send you products before you need them, cameras can be monitored, and even news can be generated.
Many believe that AI will take over the work routinely done by junior lawyers or paralegals, allowing law professionals to work on complex or higher value work, while others argue that the industry’s traditional aversion to risk means that such a disruption is not to be expected any time soon. A big discussion in the world of AI is the difference between “automation,” where the machine does everything, and “augmentation,” where the machine helps the person to accomplish the task.
Though the technology is still in its initial stages, several companies have entered the marketplace by using AI to help lawyers improve due diligence and contract review. Some observers, however, have suggested a much more ambitious approach whereby AI may be able to understand the most common tactics employed by opponents and even the likelihood of winning a case.
The amount of data around has been increasing. Think about the content generated from Facebook, Twitter, blogs and comments. Another buzzword, “big data,” refers to large amounts of data sets that are difficult to be analyzed by traditional processing technology. Businesses and industries can use relevant information to make more intelligent decisions and thereby increase their competitive advantage. By observing consumer demand, retailers such as Macy’s can adjust pricing by analyzing billions of transactions, betting companies can better target customers, and by studying “user-clicks” social media companies can better target advertisements.
Considering the enormous amount of data in court records, regulations, and eDiscovery platforms, manually navigating through this data becomes impossible. Analytics (machine based software) can review thousands of documents to search for relevant trends in a matter of seconds. This increased efficiency means cost-effectiveness for both law firms and clients.
The term financial technology (fintech) refers to the industry which uses innovation and technological change to offer an alternative to the traditional financial services institutions.
Gaining momentum out of the 2008 financial crunch, these companies have mushroomed. There are currently 2,000 fintech companies, though estimates range towards upwards of 12,000. In Canada, one billion dollars has been spent on building up fintech companies. Some famous Canadian examples are: Shopify (Ottawa), Verafin (St. John’s), Lightspeed Retail (Montreal), and Zafin (Vancouver). With the growth of these Canadian-born fintech startups, the corporate groups of many law firms have seen an increase in deals; good news for law firms and potentially even for aspiring corporate lawyers.