The legal profession in 2025: self-learning and specialised

30. September 2017

Legal professionals have already started using software based on collecting data meant to provide intelligence and great benefit to clients. Tools that learn from and analyse material more quickly than manpower are of great help already.

Increasing automation in the legal profession

Should we be afraid of big data?

Google’s self-driving car is certainly the most realistic example of the extent to which automation affects our lives in the long term. McKinsey suggests that smart technology uses big data for the sake of automating up to 60% of the existing professions across sectors.

Those who are more on the cautious side think that automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence all belong to a world where humanity will be lost to robots. In fact, automation will be profitable for more than one profession.

Disruptive technology within the legal business

Deloitte Insights has looked into the impact of automation technology for legal businesses in a recent report. Several technologies, such as virtual assistance, are already widespread within the sector. Disruptive technologies are not waiting for our approval to change the way we work.

Experts predict that repetitive duties will undergo increasing automation, whereas robots will not replace knowledge work. To this extent, the whole staffing strategy of legal companies will be subject to changes in the future.

According to the report, more than 31,000 jobs have been lost to automation technology. Simultaneously, however, there is an increase of approximately 80,000 jobs, which are better paid and highly skilled. The report suggests that if the legal profession is changing through technology, it might be for the better.

What will change for free-earning lawyers

Some traditional roles, such as lawyers paid by the hour, will not change as quickly as others within the structure of law firms. Still, there will be a generational renewal through the landing on the job market of millennials looking for flexibility and mobility. Therefore, disruption will not spare the consultants either, in the long term.

The first tasks that will be automated are the ones generally not billed by the hour, such as administrative or practice management: document management, filing, docketing, accounting, and billing. Legal Software, Virtual Law, and Open Evidence are only three among the dozens examples of smart tools improving the workflow of lawyers. What will happen with legal consultants working in due diligence?

Due diligence as a highly skilled legal practice

Due diligence is still mostly paid by the hour, meaning that the time and energy consuming practice of reviewing documents is actually at the core of the work of many consultants. That’s why many consultants see smart technology for due diligence as a threat to their income.

In fact, a larger use of self-learning software will benefit those who are paid by the hour; namely, by providing intelligence for the clients.

The so-called red flag report requires consultants to view and define the most important documentation for due diligence, and it requires a huge amount of time. What if, instead of viewing all the documents, more time was spent in analysing the most important ones? What if red flag was an automated workflow?

Through content analytics integrated in data room software, it is possible to assess risk (e.g. intellectual, infringement, inventor), thereby allowing legal consultants to make decisions based on relevant information in very short time. The key services will ensure a competitive advantage.

Bringing the automation of red flag reporting even further, it might be possible to collect even more data concerning the content of the documentation, thereby allowing not only the assessment of risk but also of the opportunities (legal and financial) involved in a deal.

The ability to run assessments precisely and shortly will contribute to building a new figure of consultant, by eliminating repetitive work in favour of qualified and detailed legal advice. This will turn into a competitive advantage for the law company.

When we at Drooms started developing the Findings Manager, we had precisely this goal in mind: helping due diligence experts with sorting large volumes of information, thereby supporting all parties involved in a transaction. The Findings Manager helps to speed up the document review phase. Potential areas of interest are highlighted. The validation of the findings can be done from within the data room. Eventually, the findings can be exported to Excel for the next steps (e.g. due diligence report.) The review process is now dramatically faster.

For legal professionals to be at pace with technological disruption, they must take the chance to fully profit from the latest findings and give themselves the opportunity to focus on more skilled and personally rewarding activities. In other words, those who will not adapt to technology might not be playing the game in 2025.