Artificial Lawyer Readers’ Predictions For 2020

This year has passed so quickly and so much has happened, but now the question is what will happen next year? What will be the big themes of 2020? What will change? Artificial Lawyer asked a variety of readers what they think will happen in 2020. This is what they said. Enjoy!

Richard Mabey, Co-founder & CEO, Juro

In 2020 the legal sector will see less of a focus on lawyers and more on the end users of legal services. I believe in-house counsel can lead the charge here, as they necessarily work everyday with their internal clients and stakeholders (most of whom are not lawyers). 

A combination of cost pressure and a real will to become enablers (rather than blockers) will help in-house counsel drive new processes, operations and tooling. 

And those innovations will be geared towards creating a better experience for everyone involved in legal processes. In-house counsel are doers – they have to be in order to be effective business partners – so I believe they are best placed to move us out of the theory and the hype to real change that impacts people’s lives.

Laura Bygrave, Innovation Lead, Deloitte Legal

In 2020 the legal sector will see an increase in end to end automation through ‘digital twins’.

A ‘digital twin’ is defined as an evolving digital profile of the historical and current behaviour of a process that helps optimise business performance.

Using cumulative, real-time, real-world legal data points across an array of dimensions to create an evolving profile of the process in the digital world that can provide important insights on performance, leading to actions in the physical world such a change in product or process design.

Richard Susskind – Author and Legal Tech Godfather

In 2020 we will see an upsurge of interest in online courts and online dispute resolution.

Innovation and KM Team Members, and Partners at Linklaters

Shilpa Bhandarkar (Global Head of Innovation, London): In 2020, innovation is going to be all about the ‘people’ piece of the people-process-technology triangle, with an emphasis on service design. Data analytics and technology tools will serve as enablers to a differentiated customer experience for our clients and our lawyers.  

Paul Lewis (Partner, Global Head of Finance and Projects, London Innovation Steering Group): In 2020, we will see smart contracts used in anger. 2019 saw many legal issues addressed that had held up widespread adoption and 2020 will see big players go from talking about smart contracts and blockchain to having live and launched use cases. It will also be the year of RPA for law firms. Anything that can be automated will be. To start, this will focus mainly on non-legal tasks that are more repeatable and predictable but this will also start to encroach into traditional lawyer tasks.

Sophie Mathur (Partner, Corporate, Singapore; Innovation Steering Group): In 2020, we will see document automation appearing everywhere – anything that can be automated will be. 

Rachel Manser (Global Head of Knowledge & Learning, London; Innovation Steering Group): In 2020 the legal sector will see a shift in focus from talking about innovation to talking instead about products, data and legal design – the need to get data governance right and the need to really get to the heart of what clients want to buy and the how they want to buy it

Christian Storck (Partner, Capital Markets, Frankfurt; Innovation Steering Group): In 2020, we will see a push towards platforms in the capital markets space which will enable participants (issuers and investors) to speed up the financing cycle. Legal documents, KYC/AML, regulatory and disclosure will all happen in the same digital space.

Christina Blacklaws, past-President of the Law Society, Chair of LawTech Delivery Panel, NED and more.

I predict that in 2020 global business will start to take smart legal contract clauses seriously and we’ll see a growing interest and use in this area.

Universities will also start to really step up to the mark to work across faculties and combine modules to support increased exposure to LawTech in the educational environment and law firms will start to train their current staff and partners (as well as their junior employees) to feel comfortable with technology and process driven approaches.

Christie Guimond, Senior Manager, Legal Project Management, White & Case

In 2020 the legal sector will see an increased focus on meaningful and impactful diversity & inclusion efforts, a continued emphasis on the importance of mental health, a concerted effort to address skills gaps related to technology, data and service design and the desire to design valuable client experiences through collaborations across the industry.

Kaisa Kromhof, Co-founder, ContractMill 

In 2020 the legal sector will see more and more companies applying legal tech in their operations, without hype and concentrating on the ‘business as usual’ software that makes dealing with legal issues more convenient.

Jake Heller, CEO, Casetext

In 2020 the legal sector will see: the first in a new class of brief-assembly products, where attorneys can write substantive legal briefs mostly automatically.

And, deeper partnerships between major law firms and legal technology companies. For example, major law firms will ‘productize’ their knowledge and re-sell it on technology platforms. You’ll also see firms getting more involved in the design of legal tech.

Roisin Noonan, Chief Operating Officer, The Law Boutique

In 2020 we’re anticipating there will be a lot more collaboration and open-source lawyering in the sector. To date, lawtech has operated on a siloed basis, solving discrete problems faced by the industry.

We’re anticipating there will be a move towards a more holistic, user-centric approach to legal tech, focusing on people and processes, as well as the growth of legal tech advisory services.

We’re hoping that great collaboration will result in better outcomes for customers as well as cheaper tech, as open-sourcing and knowledge-sharing becomes more prevalent.

Noah Waisberg, Co-founder & CEO, Kira Systems

Automated Diligence has been one of the most significant developments in law practice in the past decade. It’s approaching ubiquity in large law firms, with over 80% of the Global 100’s top 30 using contract analysis software today. (~90% of these subscribe to Kira.) My prediction is that this rate of usage will project to the top 100 global law firms in 2020 and to the top 500 within the next 2-3 years. 

My second prediction is that corporates will increasingly realize the danger of not understanding the details of their contracts in aggregate.

Jenifer Swallow, TechNation and Director of the LawTech Delivery Panel (note: these are her personal views)

Every forward-looking legal team will have a data scientist. To be a successful company in the digital era, data insights are king. The same goes for legal organisations. 

LawTech makes its way to the audit committee. If it is straightforward to remove human error in legal work then this will become the new and expected baseline for business (and insurance premiums will eventually reflect that). 

Concrete evidence that tech in law supports sustainable working patterns and increased diversity in teams, but when will we see a measured reduction in overworking?  

General Counsel will have an Avengers Assemble moment, when they use their individual and collective power to demand change: alternative resourcing models, standardised tools/platforms and more.

Mary Bonsor, Co-Founder F-Lex.

In 2020, the legal sector will see more firms going down the IPO route and setting themselves up as companies.

Marie Bernard, Founder and Managing Director, Bleu de Prusse

Innovation will play an increasing role in employer branding. ‘Upon joining your team, which tech will I routinely have access to from Day One? How engrained is it in your operating routine and processes?‘ In a world fighting to attract and retain talent, these are fair questions to ask. 

I’m thrilled to see the notion of In-Service Support progressing as an indicator of evolving levels of maturity within the market. Three years ago or so, you could be celebrated for a Proof of Concept. In the past 18 months, actual reality checks (e.g. in panel processes) surged to check and proof the actual state of deployment. Going forward, in order to differentiate, you’ll increasingly have to demonstrate that you’re accountable in terms of continuity. 
In recent years a community of legal innovators has emerged and has gone global. We’ve met peers and friends in old and new hubs, exchanged, hacked, and legal designed. That was fun but: what’s next? Should we reinvent the way we share experiences in order to use our collective intelligence even more meaningfully?

Karyn Harty, Partner, McCann FitzGerald

In 2020 the legal sector will see an increased focus by GCs on value, with greater prevalence of alternative fee arrangements for disputes work.

Tim Pullan, CEO and Founder, ThoughtRiver

In 2020 we will see the emergence of a new culture of price and outcome certainty across legal services. This will be enabled by tech such as ThoughtRiver, which can predict and control time spent on delivering outcomes.  

It will be driven by the launch of new SAAS-like legal services from major global professional services providers, including many of our own partners.

Dana Denis-Smith, CEO, Obelisk Support and Founder First100Years

In 2020 the legal sector will see an increase in all-women shortlists for senior partnership and in-house roles, as the industry takes long overdue action to correct the lack of gender parity at senior levels. A bold prediction, but I believe increased inclusion is a vital ingredient in unlocking innovation in our industry, and positive action will be the only way to achieve this at pace.

In 2020 the legal sector will see the further rise of self-partnering. No, not in the Hollywood sense. Rather, lawyers at all stages of their careers will see the benefits of going it alone; choice of work, flexibility and lack of hierarchy/bureaucracy. Smart lawyers will be looking for technology to support them, driving greater innovation across the profession.

In 2020 the legal sector will see the tech conversation turn from AI to Au-I, as the industry overcomes its apathy towards automation, takes its head out of the sand and designs a future where technology augments, rather than replaces, human judgment and ingenuity. 

In 2020 the legal sector will see lawyers learn to love maths. It’s time to ditch the verbiage and focus on stats, costs, probabilities and performance data.  The sector loves to talk about adding value; now they need to put that into numbers, not just words.

Max Paterson, Global VP of Customer Success, Neota Logic

In 2020 the legal sector will see a greater convergence with ‘non-legal’ disciplines and a continued trend towards a more open industry view, i.e. a more widespread understanding that legal decisions are often business decisions, legal operations are operations, legal risk is business risk, legal tech is tech, legal innovation is innovation, etc.

There is no doubt that in 2020 (and well after) lawyers will continue to practice law, but 2020 will see more varied and diverse voices on how law is facilitated, considered, and delivered.  

Eliot Benzecrit, Co-Founder, AVVOKA

In 2020 the legal sector will see increased connectivity between tech solutions through the use of APIs, providing lawyers with the end-to-end toolkits they’ve been asking for.

Jonathan PattersonManaging Director, DWF Ventures

In 2020 the legal sector will see more people in the legal sector investing in new skills and capabilities to create the roles we need for a more digital and technology enabled legal services future. This change will need collaboration between buyers, suppliers and academia to break the current Victorian era approaches to legal education and training that still dominates. 

Ron Friedmann, Chief Knowledge & Information Officer LAC Group

In 2020 the legal sector will see a continuation of trends from the last few years. Too many commentators predict big changes, for example, disruption or robot lawyers. But by any reasonable measure, large law firms and corporate law departments change slowly, in evolutionary and not revolutionary ways.

With trends continuing, I expect to see more legal tech uptake, more large law firms taking steps to compete against both peers and alternative service providers, and more legal tech start-up funding. My prior year predictions sound similar and I keep hoping events will prove me wrong, but so far, they have not. I’ll go out on a limb with one specific prediction: legal innovation talk will peak but innovation activity will continue, albeit with less noise about it.

Karl Chapman, Strategic Adviser, EY Law

In 2020 we will see Corporate Legal Departments avoiding ‘shiny new toys’ and reducing their tech stack, with the growing realisation that all roads lead to the data and the inevitable rise of ‘The Platforms’ (e.g. Thomson Reuters, KIM etc.).

Competition, digitisation, economic uncertainty and the need to deliver value will place significant pressure on organisations’ legal budgets. Corporate Legal Departments will need to make ‘business cases’ not ‘legal cases’.

Matthew Kellett, Partner, UK Law Leader, Financial Services, EY

There will be a Brexit dividend for law firms, i.e. more investment by clients. Infrastructure and project work will surge.

The Big Four will continue significant investment in legal managed services and tech.

Big events (such as IBOR replacement) will drive further investment in tech supported LMS. And, smart contract initiatives will continue to progress, although they will see no major breakthroughs in 2020 as too much other resource among the major players will be focused on Brexit and IBOR.

Sally Dyson, Director, Firm Sense

In 2020 I expect the combined forces of environmental consciousness and economic jitters to lead firms to downsize their real estate even further, encouraging more working from home and online collaboration. 

Amongst other things, this may encourage acceptance and adoption of fully digital KYC and ID verification enabled by technologies such as block chain, facial biometrics and geo-location.

This would spare clients and staff the frustrating paper chase that dogs new account opening; could boost access to justice via digital advice platforms; might make it easier for clients to instruct solicitors in lower cost centres or for firms to take instructions from abroad; and ultimately should be used to reduce the menace of identity fraud for clients and firms alike. 

Rick Merrill, CEO, Gavelytics 

2020 will see the beginnings of a consolidation wave in the legal technology sector, as big companies buy smaller ones and some number of other legal technology companies die.

Emily Foges, CEO, Luminance

2019 was a record year for legal technology.  Annual investment is expected to hit £1 billion and this is only set to continue in 2020, as legal technology becomes increasingly more widespread. As technologies are enhanced, there is no doubt that the ethical debate will be ramped up and so, it will remain fundamental for organisations to ensure they are deploying the right technology, in the right way. 

No lawyer should have to cede control to a machine and with true AI they don’t have to. Humans have a crucial role to play in the decision-making process and must never be by-passed. With true AI adoption on the rise, there will there will be no need for legal technologists to implement these systems, the only people using the technology will be the lawyers themselves. 

Brexit is also likely to play a hand in the continued uptake of machine learning platforms, such as Luminance. Nobody knows exactly what the state of play will be, particularly in relation to how businesses in the UK will continue to operate with the rest of Europe after our departure from the EU.

However, in preparation for the inevitable, companies are entering a period of ‘repapering’, completely over-hauling all contracts to ensure that these do not become liable in an era of uncertainty, as well as wading through cross-border agreements and interpreting new clauses. This is set to place a drain on resources for law firms and in-house legal teams, which inevitably impacts profit. However, by adopting the latest technology, lawyers will be able to focus and streamline even the most complex and convoluted reviews. 

Sam Moore, Innovation Manager (Qualified Solicitor) AMBCS Accredited Legal Technologist, Burness Paull

In 2020 the legal sector will see market consolidation in a way we started to see in 2019 (e.g. the collapse of DealWIP), and I expect a healthy shake-up of the legal tech market will claim a few more high-profile names before 2020 is through.

Another major focus in 2020 should hopefully be better inter-operability between tech products, as more people realise that creating endless point solutions just results in more and more data silos. Opening up API’s and adopting some common data standards should go a long way towards improving legal tech adoption in that regards.

Finally, I believe that data ethics will dominate strategic conversations between vendors, developers and users in 2020. It will become increasingly important that providers of legal services have made a serious commitment to good ethical standards when it comes to client and personal data.

Tom Martin, Founder, LawDroid

In 2020 the legal sector will see a bit of a backlash against increasing Legal Tech innovation with greater regulation on the use of AI and legal technology.

Peter Richards, Senior Vice President, Business Development EMEA, ayfie

In 2020 the legaltech sector will see continued consolidation, whether by acquisition or by smaller start-ups collaborating amongst themselves to pull their point solutions into an integrated platform. Overall the legal sector is still struggling with technology adoption and training machine learning algorithms.

As 2019 was a year of introspection for many firms, spent running various internal requirements gathering workshops, 2020 should see increased experimentation as technology purchases will be connected to a clearly defined need.

While there have been some discussions of firms shifting ‘off the clock’ to fixed price billing, this is more likely to commence in 2021 as firms will need to extract insights from their backend systems.

Thank you very much to everyone who contributed their thoughts. There is much to consider here over Christmas and well into 2020!

Artificial Lawyer will be setting out some additional thoughts in the New Year about where we are heading too, but on a lighter note here are some festive theories for now:

  • From 2020 onwards there will be far fewer reports and white papers with the title ‘2020 Vision’.
  • ‘Empathy’ and ‘client-centric’ will no longer be buzzwords. ‘Mind-meld’ and ‘conscious client coupling’ will be the new buzzwords.
  • People will stop seeing contracts as ‘legal contracts’ and just call them ‘contracts’.
  • Asking ‘should lawyers learn to code?’ will become a criminal offence in England & Wales.
  • Boris Johnson in the UK and Donald Trump in the US will work together on a special new trade deal focused on the Transatlantic export of legal technology.
  • The European Union will formally ban DIY contract platforms, as well as the use of prediction technology that reveals lawyers’ or judges’ future behaviour in court.
  • A legal AI system will become sentient in 2020 and its first words will be: ‘I don’t want to do legal work anymore.’

And, coming back to reality……

Artificial Lawyer predicts that the landmark Legal Innovators conference will be back in London in October 2020 and it will be even better, with two days of excellent insights from some of the leading thinkers in the area of legal innovation and process change. It’s also predicted that a new Legal Innovators event will take place outside of the UK in 2020.

That’s all folks!