Editor’s Note: The author of this post is a legal technology and management consultant.
By Ron Friedmann, Fireman & Company
The legal media has lately had a mania for tech headlines. Many commentators claim that tech, especially artificial intelligence (AI), will do something to Big Law. I disagree. Tech more likely will do something in it: incremental change.
I start with the case against disruption, then look at four headline-grabbing technologies: AI, Bots, Big Data, and Blockchain.
The Case Against Disruption
By the late 1980s, a few law firms had most of their lawyers using PCs. The market did not reward these early adopters. Nor did it punish late adopters. The same pattern played out for email, the Internet, and social media.
Tech did disrupt legal secretaries. But that took an economic crisis and 15 years. Tech has enabled change – for example, the rise of boutiques and clients using alternative providers – but that has not disrupted lawyers or law firms.
An even bigger event than tech – the 2008-10 economic crisis – also failed to disrupt Big Law, notwithstanding widespread lay-offs and a few dissolutions. In the aftermath, Big Law faces price pressure and more competition but not disruption. Even with tech, with price pressure, and with clients bringing more work in-house, Big Law prospers as reported by recent Am Law 100 and Altman Weil surveys.
With this history, I just don’t see how the new technologies today will be any different than the past.
Ron Friedmann talks of these 4 major new technologies:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Big Data & Data Science