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Artificial intelligence is a top legal technology trend in 2015

Data security is the biggest challenge facing Iegal IT teams, research finds

1 September 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Law firms will need to play close attention to developments in artificial intelligence, new research suggests.

Resources like IBM's Watson have been cited as among "the most exciting" technologies and trends in the legal sector this year.

The survey findings, which are released today by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and InsideLegal, coincide with Riverview Law's announcement this morning that it has acquired CliXLEX to create 'virtual assistants' for in-house counsel.

"At a very high level, it is actually helping in-house lawyers to make much quicker and better decisions," he told Managing Partner.

Other firms which have invested in artificial intelligence include Dentons, through its collaborative innovation platform NextLaw Labs. The international law firm is developing a legal advisor app powered by IBM's Watson.

Later this month, a global law firm is expected to announce that it has partnered with RAVN to automate high-volume legal work.

With adoption of cognitive computing increasing in the legal sector, Riverview Law's CEO, Karl Chapman, has predicted that artificial intelligence will be the norm in law firms by 2020.

Other "exciting" trends and technologies highlighted by the ILTA survey include cloud computing, mobile devices, virtualisation, big data analytics and advances in data security and digital dictation.

The tenth annual legal technology survey received 184 responses, of which 94 per cent came from North America. Four-fifths either make the final tech purchasing decision at their firm or serve on the purchasing committee.

Trends in legal technology investments

The survey found that the top five technology purchases made by law firms in 2015 were: laptops/notebooks (67 per cent); desktop hardware (60 per cent); network upgrades (51 per cent); printers/multifunctional devices (49 per cent); and antivirus/anti-spam software (40 per cent).

Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents said they had no plans to use big data technologies. However, among these, the majority were from small firms (57 per cent) and medium firms (38 per cent). Only four per cent of respondents from large firms said they had no plans to invest in big data.

Firms utilising big data tech have prioritised investments in business intelligence/analytics (34 per cent); predictive coding (25 per cent), pricing/managing legal spend (22 per cent) and competitive intelligence/analysis (19 per cent).

"The initiation of a purchase can come from just about anywhere or anyone, but the purchase should always be in relation to a deliverable that is aligned with the firm's strategy," commented IT consultant Damian Blackburn in his Managing Partner article 'Purchasing puzzle: Get the best return on investment from legal technology'.

"It's important to set out a clear and preferably-concise business case for major purchases."

When asked to confirm which parts of their firm's technology infrastructure is currently outsourced, nearly three quarters said website design and services, up from five per cent in 2014. This was followed by printer repair/maintenance (49 per cent) and spam/virus fil tering (40 per cent). Medium-sized firms were the most likely to out-source website design/service, at 44 per cent, compared to only 17 per cent of large firms.

Data security is an increasingly important issue for respondents. Security software and assessments ranked sixth among respondents' technology purchases last year and fifth among their planned purchases for next year.

Indeed, security management was named as the biggest challenge facing legal IT departments, replacing email management for the first time in eight years. Close behind are information governance and risk management/compliance.

Improving data security is considered more of a priority among large law firms than medium-sized or small law firms, the research suggests.

However, 28 per cent of all respondents said their firms do not have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, a key security measure.

Among the firms which do have a BYOD policy, only 28 per cent said their policy covers laptops - a key tool through which lawyers work remotely. Less than three fifths (59 per cent) said their BYOD policy covers tablets, while 71 per cent said it covers smartphones.

Many firms do however appear to have concerns regarding the security of cloud-based platforms. Three fifths said that less than 25 per cent of their firm's software and service solutions would be cloud-based within the next one to three years.

Improving lawyers' technology proficiency

Research released by Managing Partner in early February 2015 found that persuading lawyers to use new technology would be the biggest IT challenge of 2015.

Clearly, changing lawyers' attitudes towards new technology will be critical if firms are to survive in future.

The 2015 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey included the new question 'How are you addressing users' technology competence and proficiency?'

"We added this question in 2015 due to all the recent attention focused on attorneys' technology proficiency and the overall desire to have a more tech savvy and 'tech prepared' law firm user base," the report says.

The survey found that survey respondents are offering lawyers additional application-specific training (61 per cent) as well as new training models and delivery mechanisms to better suit user needs (44 per cent).

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said they are not addressing the issue at all, among which 63 per cent are from small firms.

Additional responses included developing in-house professional development accreditation, hiring additional in-house trainers, evaluating third-party vendors to provide web-based and e-learning solutions, and linking technical proficiency to compensation.

Among all respondents, 57 per cent said their firms spend between two and four per cent of total revenues on technology. Within this range, medium-sized firms represent the largest group, at 49 per cent.

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents spend less than US$17,000 on technology per lawyer, including 100 per cent of small firms. Eighty-six per cent of large law firms spend more than US$17,000 per lawyer on technology.





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