“Change is the only constant in life,” so said Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, around 500 B.C. As I look toward the legal environment in 2018, that saying is alive and well thanks to the emergence of robotics, other workplace of the future solutions and artificial intelligence (AI), the next critical wave of change in law firms.
What is different from Heraclitus’ time is the velocity at which change is occurring. Advancing law firm technology has pushed firms to move uncommonly fast to implement the changes necessary to garner the benefits that are possible for strategic growth and overall survival. The law firm of the future must address these coming influences that are re-engineering how work will be done. What are these influences that I believe will impact the legal arena in 2017? Here are my predictions:
Law Firm Design – The increasing need for firms to work more collaboratively and more transparently while utilizing less space has dominated the strategic thinking for future success. Changes to work styles will be important to address, including smaller offices, remote offices, and secure cloud and telecommuting. Utilizing the available space will be addressed with such facility management systems as Teem, a Konica Minolta cloud-based solution for conference room scheduling and management that improves productivity by keeping meetings on track and enhancing the way staff schedules and conducts gatherings. Mobility device management – such as those from All Covered, Konica Minolta’s IT Services division – will be especially crucial to a firm’s future workstyle because they will give attorneys and other staff members flexibility in how they can be more effective in completing tasks and, therefore, more client-focused.
Workplace of the Future™ Solutions – New products and services will find their way into law firms that will help them run more smoothly. These include innovative facility “facilitators” like virtual assistants who will greet clients and reduce the administrative work that typically slows staff productivity. Examples are Konica Minolta’s ALICE Receptionist, which employs touch screen and live video technology to connect visitors directly with employees, and Receptionist for iPad, a simple registration system that can help firms manage visitor flow and deliveries, plus allow two-way communication between hosts and guests. This is not what a typical law firm looks like, but I predict it will become the Workplace of the Future.
Artificial intelligence (AI) – Of all the coming changes I see, artificial intelligence will be the greatest game-changer of them all. Today, legal cases consist of documents stored across a broad range of locations, including document management systems, email platforms, instant messaging, mobile technologies, social media platforms, servers, etc. Legal professionals need solutions that offer forensic data collection, computer forensic analysis, data processing, hosting and production. With AI already all around us in our personal and professional lives – from virtual assistants like Siri to the deep learning features of the Internet that use data much faster than humans can — I foresee AI transforming the way legal services are delivered with an increase of tools for technology-assisted review, analytics and early case assessment. These will further help reduce dataset sizes and legal spend. Via a partnership with Precision Discovery, Konica Minolta’s eDiscovery suite of services offers all this and more, including attorneys to conduct data reviews.
Robotics – The legal world is one business sector where I don’t believe robots will replace staff but will work very effectively beside them. For instance, we’re already seeing the world’s first artificially “intelligent attorney.” Built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, “Ross” can read and understand language, propose hypotheses and conduct research. Artificial intelligence will without a doubt improve work processes, speed research, assist lawyers to perform tasks from analyzing data to managing risk and make decisions – enhancing client services and saving lawyers and their firm’s valuable time. Another type of robot that will emerge as a hero in the legal world are the ones that provide remote telepresence, which is gaining popularity in schools for students who cannot attend class in person. An example is Konica Minolta’s Double 2, which provides a real, physical presence in the office via a two-wheeled balancing robot with an attached iPad®. Think about how much costs would be reduced when remote clients or witnesses can be present via technology. Robotics will play a huge role in 2017 and beyond for law firms, but it’ll be a very long time before robots start opening solo practices.
New “Partners” — While many firms will continue to hire bright lawyers, they must now look to hire an IT partner as a value-add to their legal environment. Some law firms don’t have the ability to successfully implement IT solutions on their own. As such, hiring IT-related “partners” – like All Covered and Konica Minolta – to help them identify and implement their IT strategies will be a necessity. This will be the next crucial hire that law firms will conduct as part of their strategical goals in order to experience true growth in a very competitive and volatile market. With the right IT partner, firms will find it much easier to recognize and accept innovative solutions, survive in the marketplace and, most importantly, create a cybersecurity strategy and implementation plan that is imperative in today’s climate.
It’s exciting to witness the new innovations that are occurring once again in the legal industry. Change is indeed the only constant in life and All Covered and Konica Minolta is ready to help you embrace the law firm of the future.