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An A to Z guide to the future of law

Posted: 23/03/2018

Automation – utilising software to perform simple tasks automatically, such as populating a contract using information about the parties etc already entered into a firm’s DMS. Time and effort saving. 

Blockchain – an ordered, continuously growing list of time-stamped records (blocks) that update in real time. Extremely secure and hard to edit. The future of how we hold and access information? 

Cryptocurrency – digital money, often protected by Blockchain. Increasingly widely used but still unregulated and somewhat volatile. Some law firms already accept cryptocurrency as payment: will you? 

Digitisation – a key part of the Government’s £700 million reform programme for modernising the court system in the UK. Just nobody mention e-borders. Or Universal Credit. Or the NHS... 

E-signatures – high quality e-signatures can help authenticate a signatory, guarantee a document’s integrity, and provide satisfaction as to the origin of the signature. 

Fixed costs – as far as we know, the Government is (in its spare time) considering Jackson LJ proposal’s that fixed costs be extended to the whole of the fast track, with a new intermediate track to be introduced for certain claims up to £100,000.

GDPR – the clock is ticking down to 25 May 2018. With 4% of a company’s revenue at risk for a breach, non-compliance is not an option. 

Hackathon – an event where participants are given a set time and brief to create software, increasingly being used as a tool to identify talent and develop legal software. 

Artificial intelligence - the holy grail of computing. Computers have already proved more accurate than lawyers in predicting the outcome of litigation which goes to trial, at least. See also ‘R’ below. 

Justice – legal aid cuts and increasing court fees have restricted people’s access to justice. Will recent judgments turn the tide?

Knowledge management - collecting, storing, analysing and sharing individual experience and knowledge across a firm and using it for the firm’s collective benefit. 

Legal engineers - use new (or existing) technologies to avoid bottlenecks in a firm. Improving work flow and processing to increase efficiency and reduce cost. 

Machine learning – allows computers to learn from the data fed through them rather than simply processing it. The ultimate aim is for computers to solve complex problems without human input. See also ‘R’ below… 

Natural language processing – software which allows computers to understand the complexities and nuances of human language in order to process data.

Online courts – coming soon to a laptop / desktop / tablet near you. New PD51R introduced an Online Court Pilot that will run into 2019; Briggs LJ has proposed an Online Solutions Court. 

Personal data – do you know your personal data from your sensitive personal data? How transparent are your pseudonyms and code names? Do you process or control such data? 

Qualification – the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, the ‘Super Exam’, is (possibly) nearly here, providing more (albeit controversial) routes to qualification than ever before. 

Redundant – will legal chatbots, providing advice on everything from contesting parking tickets, immigration issues and consumer rights, render us all redundant? (See also ‘I’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘T’ and ‘W’!) 

Subscription based lawyers – with in-house teams increasingly under pressure to cut costs and justify their existence, could the Netflix model make its way to law firms? 

Technology assisted review – court approved software, learning from document review specialists and then trawling through millions of documents far quicker than a mere mortal (back up to ‘R’…). 

Unified Patent Court – will have exclusive jurisdiction over European patents and European patents with unitary effect in 25 countries, when it finally opens for business. 

Virtual general meetings – under the microscope at present; many companies are seeking to amend their articles to enable virtual-only and / or hybrid meetings. Shareholders may be less enthusiastic. 

Watson – IBM’s question answering computer system has been developed by several start-ups to provide answers to legal queries for both lawyers and consumers. See ‘R’… 

Self eXecuting contracts – already in use in the insurance industry for automatic payment for flight delays or cancellation. Lessens the need for human interaction and involvement. 

cYber SecuritY – the ramifications of a breach in a firm’s cyber security have become painfully apparent in the last year. This should be one of the largest areas of investment in many law firms. 

HoriZon scanning - the only way to ensure change transforms rather than disrupts your business, and to avoid all roads leading to letter ‘R’ above. Don’t be caught napping!

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP