Brian Inkster considers what 2018 holds in store for IT and legal practice.
Every three to four years on my blog, I look to the future year and what might happen in the world of legal technology / IT. I haven’t done this every year as things move very slowly in the world of legal practice and I would just find myself repeating myself.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) didn’t feature in my legal IT predictions back in 2011 or 2014. But over the past year or two it has been the next big thing that everyone in legal IT seems to be speaking about.
I predict that in 2018 AI will continue to be a de rigueur slot in legal technology conferences. But delegates will continue to leave none the wiser as to what they are actually supposed to do with AI in their own legal practices or how much it might cost them.
Despite this more law firms will be boasting in 2018 that they have adopted AI but the reality will be that their actual adoption will be no better than what they have done to date with document automation (see more on that below).
Whilst AI defeated lawyers in an unfair competition in 2017, AI will not defeat lawyers in a fair fight in 2018 (I doubt any such contest will be staged). That time may come one day.
Another new kid on the block is Blockchain. It will continue to be mentioned in passing at legal technology conferences in 2018 but again clarity on what your average lawyer will be able to do with it will be scant.
Some lawyers will wake up in 2018 to the fact that they could and should be utilising the document automation system that they purchased at vast cost many years ago to a far greater extent than they currently do before spending even more money on AI and blockchain.
However, the majority of lawyers will think that they must invest in these shiny new toys just to then do exactly the same with those as they did with the old ones!
The big thing in 2018 will be for law firms to start introducing chatbots onto their websites never mind getting actual content on there first for the chatbot to reference.
The fact that introducing a basic search function to their website might be more effective and useful than a chatbot that gets confused with most queries put to it (unless there is a human being operating it) will be lost on most lawyers.
However, if it has not been done already, a legal chatbot will in 2018 be able to order your Uber for you. This will be major news in legal publications but not really a giant leap for the legal profession.
In 2018 the term ‘Legal Engineer’ is likely to be trademarked in the UK to Glasgow IP solicitor Philip Hannay, despite him not having coined the name, unless there is effective official opposition by those not happy with his trade mark application. I am sure Philip, being the nice guy that he is, will allow me to continue using the term ‘Legal Process Engineer’.
In 2011 and in 2014 I predicted that Twitter would remain the most effective social media channel for lawyers to spend their time on. I referred to LinkedIn as “deadly boring” in 2014. It was back then.
But that has changed. LinkedIn has evolved and come into its own. It is being used far more effectively as a networking/interaction tool than used to be the case. It will undoubtedly grow further in stature in 2018.
The fabled Microsoft Surface Phone just might make an appearance in 2018 unless it is pushed back to 2019 or does not exist at all.
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, has said over the past year or so:
“We will continue to be in the phone market not as defined by today’s market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device.”
“In some sense, when you say, ‘Will we make more phones?’ I’m sure we will make more phones, but they won’t look like phones that are there today.”
Some have seen this as a hint towards the development of a Surface Phone. Patents have been filed by Microsoft which show a device with a flexible hinge.
As a big fan of the Surface range of products (I had a Surface RT when first launched and am writing this post on a Surface Book) I will be queuing up for a Surface Phone as an upgrade to my HP Elite x3 Windows 10 Phone (which is an excellent device in its own right).
If the Surface Phone concept is all that it has been rumoured to be expect a dual screen, foldable device with Surface Pen that will truly be a PC in your pocket.
This will be the mobile device for lawyers as the BlackBerry once was.