The Most Important Stories Of 2019 on Artificial Lawyer

Wow. What a year 2019 has been! It says something about a market when after what was an already frantic period of change that things are still humming with significant activity. Here are some of the stories that caught Artificial Lawyer’s eye over the last 12 months. Clearly, not everything could be included, but hopefully this covers some of the key developments.

Legal Tech Regulation

For the first time we saw real pushback on the ability of legal tech to deliver change in the market. First in France, with a ban on the publication of the analysis of judges’ decisions – a story that Artificial Lawyer broke and which then went global, and then later in the year we saw a regional lawyers’ organisation in Germany seek to ban DIY contract platforms on the basis that consumers needed to have a lawyer involved. And, we also saw California enter the fray, initially with the aim of freeing things up – but perhaps accidentally risking adding new regulation where it might not be needed.

France Bans Judge Analytics, 5 Years In Prison For Rule Breakers

LegalTech On Trial – Regional German Bar ‘Wins Ban’ On Contract Platforms

California Bar Task Force Sketches Out Radical Future, Also Tech Regulation

The Big Four

When analysing the most popular stories on Artificial Lawyer, ones about the Big Four always receive a high level of engagement. This is for the simple reason that a lot of law firms see the Big Four as ‘a threat’, rather than a force for good, and which are shaking up the status quo and being an essential catalyst for positive market change.

The chances of the Big Four taking out the Magic Circle are very slim, what is more likely is that they will offer clients a wider set of choices, especially around legal process work and improving legal processes in themselves. However you see them, the market certainly cares about what they do. And that’s a good thing.

Below are a few of the stories that hit the headlines – in particular EY’s rapid expansion into the field of legal process work.

The Day After: Thoughts On The EY / Thomson Reuters LMS Deal

The EY Law Strategy: What Now And Where Next?

Deloitte Legal Ventures Launches, Picks 14 Startups For Major Tech Programme

PwC NewLaw Boosts Team As Legal Function Advisory Service Grows

MDR LAB + PwC Scale Hold Their Legal Tech Demo Days – Write Up

(Note: the link above also includes a write up of the MDR LAB cohort 2019 – and incubators have certainly been another major theme of the year.)

Smart Contracts

2019 is definitely the year that smart contracts broke through the theoretical discussion barrier and ended up in the real world. Use of smart contract technology within complex agreements remains at an early stage, but importantly law firms are now actually making and selling to clients their own smart contracts. Clause has been central to these developments.

We have also seen some very interesting work around smart contracts and new approaches to financial services – with OpenLaw in New York doing some great work there. And we have also seen the UK embrace smart contracts especially, in part because of a desire to be the legal centre for disputes that arise from their use, and in relation to crypto assets.

What The DocuSign Investment in Clause Means – Interview With Peter Hunn, CEO

2nd Law Firm Launches Smart Contract Product, As DocuSign Offers ‘Smart Clauses’

End of The Beginning For Smart Contracts – Accord Forum Write Up

Thomson Reuters Links With OpenLaw For ‘Smart Contract Express’ Project

Smart Contract Co. OpenLaw Launches ‘The DAO Mark II’ -> The LAO

Consolidation and Casualties Along The Legal Tech Road

2019 saw two things in terms of the companies that make up the legal tech market: increasing consolidation and platformisation (i.e. not merging, but making an explicit effort to link closely to other point solutions to provide a more compelling total offering); and the beginning of fears that the legal tech bubble, that has seen so much investment (see: Around $1bn Invested in 2018 Into Legal Tech/NewLaw Companies – Investec ), may be about to burst.

The reality is that consolidation only claimed a handful of companies, while the majority motor on independently. And as for a bubble bursting…have a read of the piece below.

Legal Tech Startup, dealWIP, Ceases Trading – Shape of Things To Come?

Are We Heading For A Legal Tech Crash?

Legal Tech Consolidation – The Market Verdict

Wavelength + Simmons & Simmons Combination: News Analysis

Thomson Reuters/HighQ: ‘Helps Growth, Defends Vs Rival Consolidators’

Litera Bags De Pardieu, One of France’s Leading Firms, Following Doxly Deal

Legal AI Doc Review + Analysis Market Just Grows and Grows

The widening use of legal AI tools for different aspects of doc review and analysis has been a mainstay of 2019. While well-known companies such as Kira Systems, Seal Software, LawGeex, ThoughtRiver and Luminance keep on steadily expanding, there has also been a stream of smaller and sometimes new companies making ripples in the legal AI pond. Here’s a few of the stories about the new(-er) kids on the block.

Ravel Co-Founder, Nik Reed, Leaves LexisNexis For Knowable – Will Help Grow The Doc Analysis Platform

Knowable’s Strategy To Disrupt The AI Contract Analytics Market

Legal AI Company BlackBoiler Seeks To Revolutionize Contract Review

Meet Evisort, The New AI Platform Set to Rock The $60 Billion Doc Review Market

Paperflip – The NLP-Driven Contract Analytics App For Salesforce

Plus – we have seen some interesting new moves from the more established players, such as:

Radical Strategic Move As Seal Launches Contract Negotiation System

ThoughtRiver Launches ‘Lexible’ Universal Contract Language System

NetDocuments Starts Integrations With Legal AI Powerhouse Kira + SeeUnity

ALSPs (…and Law Companies) Find A Receptive Market

If disaggregation is the name of the game, then ALSPs (and…Law Companies) are custom made for this new era of legal industrialisation.

But, of course, if it’s all going to be about cheaper human labour then the story will not end well. Luckily, it’s not, and these legal businesses with a focus on process are now steadily embracing legal AI doc review tech to help them perform in ways that humans alone could never achieve.

From Artificial Lawyer’s perspective, the Seal Software and UnitedLex deal was really a watershed moment that marked the wider acceptance of legal AI tech + humans, over just cheaper human labour. And that is a significant victory in terms of everything this site is working toward.

UnitedLex Embraces Legal AI With Seal Software Deployment

UnitedLex And Seal Software – How We Will Work Together

ALSP Integreon Partners With Seal For New Era Of Legal AI Analysis

Epiq Adds Diligen to NexLP, Brainspace + Relativity Analytics Offering

Clifford Chance Picks Elevate’s ContraxSuite For New Data Science Lab


As you can see, that’s quite a lot of important stuff happening that has helped to shape the market in just 12 months.

And this is all part of a very fluid situation, with one event triggering another. I.e. X happens, which drives Y to happen, which amplifies the importance of X, which then makes Z happen as a reaction, and so on, domino-ing all the way across the legal sector – or at least the larger commercial firm end of it.

The legal market is more dynamic now than at any other time since….well, it’s hard to remember when it was like this. Globalisation was exciting, but all those mergers across borders did little to change the way that legal work was produced. Now, this is starting – and starting is the key word – to change.

There is also so much else that could be added here. For example, the steady growth of legal ops; the continued rise of no code platforms and workflow automation systems; the use of contract data for more than the legal team’s benefit (see Juro Launches NLP-Driven Contract Reader To Boost Inhouse Efficiency); plus the first legal tech hackathon ever in Japan – which Artificial Lawyer helped to judge; and of course the launch of the now landmark legal innovation event of the year – Legal Innovators, which will be back again in 2020 and also take place abroad.

But, hopefully the above covers many of the key themes, and certainly represents many of the stories that Artificial Lawyer readily looks back on when asked about important market change.