By structuring unstructured legal data, we have entered the third wave of legal technology. Lawyers will have to change What they do to take full advantage of these new sources of value capture.
As discussed in the first part of this article, there have been two waves of technological change that have impacted the legal industry. (The first wave focused on changing How lawyers perform certain tasks or activities they have always done, while the second wave was largely targeting Who was working in the law.) These first two waves mostly leveraged technology to replace high-volume, repetitive tasks, the types of tasks often performed by lower-paid workers in legal services—in many cases, the workflows in legal services that were least efficient, and hence most in need of optimization. This type of change, focused on optimization and efficiency, does not necessarily require technology.
It often starts with business process optimization, but it is typically accelerated by leveraging technology. Excitingly, with advances in artificial intelligence, particularly in machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), we are now in a third wave of legal technology. In this wave, technology is poised to help lawyers create new sources of value by changing What lawyers do. Much like any industry facing competitive pressure in a global economy, the legal profession is in need of transformation. It needs to take advantage of opportunities that new technology presents and keep up with client demands.
This doesn’t mean all lawyers should learn to code, but it does mean lawyers will need to adapt to the opportunities created by new technology and learn new skills. They will be rewarded by creating greater value for their clients.
To best understand this important upcoming transformation, let’s first look at where lawyers spend their time today, what technology can do that it could not do before, and then consider how this will help lawyers change What they do to provide greater value.