Daniel Farrar is the CEO of Assembly Software.
From the dictation machine in the 1950s to the cloud-based case management software solutions leveraging artificial intelligence, blockchain and other modern technologies we’re seeing nowadays, legal teams have gotten access to tools that have helped them streamline how they work so they can better serve their clients. Law firms that strategically use cloud-based legal tech solutions can scale more efficiently, increase productivity, streamline workflows, secure their systems and incur fewer costs.
Increasingly, legal teams are recognizing the importance of legal tech. According to Bloomberg Law’s 2022 Legal Ops + Tech Survey, around “90% of respondents believe that legal tech is important to meeting client demands and improving legal services.” Legal teams are using modern technologies, particularly cloud-based legal solutions, to their advantage. Consider a finding from a 2022 survey by the International Legal Technology Association. As Legal Practice Intelligence reported, the survey found that cloud adoption was hovering around 40% in 2022—compared to 3% in 2020.
However, this finding indicates that a substantial portion of the industry still hasn’t moved over to the cloud. Given the advent of AI legal tech, legal teams that have not yet moved over to the cloud have an even steeper learning curve when it comes to leveraging AI. The faster they move over to the cloud, the faster they can embrace AI legal tech and future-proof their firms.
A Brief History Of The Evolution Of Legal Tech
Over the decades, legal tech has evolved significantly. Here are some important breakthroughs:
• Dictation machines in the 1950s enabled lawyers to record their voices and have their secretaries transcribe them later, which streamlined legal documentation and made it more accurate.
• Word processing software in the 1960s helped lawyers put aside the hassles of paper and typewriters and write and edit legal documents on computers.
• Electronic calculators in the 1970s facilitated the management of financial and numerical data in legal cases.
• Personal computers in the 1980s gave lawyers greater access to applications and tools for managing their work.
• Email and internet in the 1990s provided lawyers the ability to instantly communicate with clients and colleagues, as well as research various resources, online.
• Early versions of cloud-based legal tech (mainly case management software) in the early 2000s streamlined various functions, including scheduling, billing, document management, client communication and reporting, into one system on the cloud.
• AI legal tech in the mid-2010s automated legal tasks and workflows, enabling lawyers to spend more time on high-level tasks.
The Risks Of Not Adapting To New, Cloud-Based Legal Tech
In the 2000s, cloud-based solutions streamlined workflows, paving the path for the rise of AI in the mid-2010s. Combined, the two latest developments in legal tech, cloud and AI, give legal teams the power to work more efficiently and productively than ever before. They can access their cases from anywhere, automate tasks and efficiently analyze data, among other benefits.
How Law Firms Can Get Up-To-Speed On Cloud Adoption
For all the benefits of moving to cloud-based legal tech solutions, it’s not an overnight process.
Law firm leaders seeking cloud-based legal tech solutions for their firms should think ahead and ask themselves two questions about how they want to use AI in the future:
• Which of our workflows do we want to be handled by AI?
• How much of those workflows do we want to be handled by AI?
The answers to these questions will help law firm leaders determine if they should select a cloud vendor with embedded AI or if they will have to deploy a cloud-specific provider now and, later, an AI one separately.
There are pros and cons to cloud solutions with embedded AI capabilities. A core benefit of cloud vendors with embedded AI capabilities is that they minimize bills and are easier to navigate, given that all AI and cloud capabilities will be housed under one system (removing the need for integrations between systems). But two cons of vendors with embedded AI solutions are that the AI capabilities might not cover the full range of a firm’s needs, and the specific features might not be specialized enough for certain use cases.
Once law firm leaders have a clear picture of their AI needs, they should take a few
primary steps as they evaluate cloud-based legal tech solutions. First, they should do some research on their case management and workflow needs. If they prefer a cloud vendor with embedded AI capabilities, they should carefully explore those features.
Then, they can take the next step, which is zoning in on two to three vendors and deeply evaluating each. Law firm leaders should invite each prospective cloud provider to do an assessment and discovery of current systems (such as workflow requirements, technical readiness and data transfer needs). They should also look into what level of and what type of training the cloud provider will offer to get team members up to speed. Of course, team members should be involved in the decision-making process as well; their input is vital.
Taking Action Now Is Vital
Historically, lawyers haven’t embraced technological changes as much as other industries. But it’s time to change course. Cloud and AI are the two dominant technologies in the industry at the moment, working in conjunction with each other. The rate of change is accelerating by the day. By leveraging the cloud and AI as soon as possible, lawyers can safeguard and future-proof their firms.