The Evolution of Legal Tech Outpaces Law Firm Adoption

Famed inventor and technologist Ray Kurzweil hypothesized that changes in technology are exponential. In his famed essay, The Law of Accelerating Returns, Kurzweil wrote: 

“… a serious assessment of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential. In exponential growth, we find that a key measurement such as computational power is multiplied by a constant factor for each unit of time (e.g., doubling every year) rather than just being added to incrementally.”

In this same essay, he also said Moore’s Law (i.e. the expectation that the speed and capability of computers will double every two years as a result of increases in the number of transistors a microchip can contain) would end in 2019. So has it? It’s debated, but the mere fact that it is even up for debate lends credence to Kurzweil’s point. 

So what does this have to do with Legal Tech? 

Everything.

If true, Kurzweil’s hypothesis applies to all technologies – including Legal Tech. Consider Legal Tech today versus 2010, or 2000, or 1990. Although some firms still use legacy-era server-based technology, it’s quite clear that today’s Legal Tech is like something out of Star Trek compared to what it was in 1990. That said, it would be a mistake to conflate the promise of new technologies with imminent implementation. And by “implementation,” I mean “use.”

Though admittedly a bit of an oversimplification, it’s my view that there are two sides to the proverbial Legal Tech coin. It’s the technology itself vs. the actual use of the technology. It’s an important distinction. There are a number of great companies out there providing innovative Legal Tech. More often than not, though, plaintiffs’ law firms eschew change for the status quo. 

Status quo for any business is deadly – even law firms. 

What is available in today’s Legal Tech is simply not reflective of what’s commonly found or used in most plaintiffs’ law firms.

Cloud

In another article, I wrote about the benefits of cloud-based case management software. While software adoption rates are climbing, they are still far behind other professional service industries. From superior physical and cyber security, to total cost of ownership, to maintenance of the cost-benefits and technological scale, going the way of the cloud does compute. 

In today’s digital transformation and technically driven economy, it really is a no-brainer to work in the cloud. Without it, you’re just falling behind at (I would suggest) the same exponential speed as outlined in Kurzweil’s essay.

The drag-along benefits a firm realizes by being in a commercial cloud environment potentially ranges from blockchain, to artificial intelligence, to voice recognition, and other benefits. What many law firms don’t know (or may not realize) is that the benefits often available in other commercial products are coming down the pike for legal case management software. 

Therefore, firms in server-based environments are simply not going to realize the same benefits as cloud-based platforms. The commercial cloud provides constant hardware improvements and feature offerings that roll out non-stop. Quite simply, the status quo you may be accustomed to won’t be the status quo for much longer, and it’s important to recognize the ways you can stay ahead of your competition.

Security

There is a fiction in law firms that the server environment is more secure than a cloud environment. Consider for a moment that the most common server-based platform in use by plaintiffs’ firms right now has the same Sybase password for ALL of its clients. Sure, firms large enough to have their own IT departments or staff may change it, but 100% of the firms using this platform with which I’ve consulted had the same password. Many don’t even know that to be the case, but when I plug into their network, I simply connect via ODBC and voila – I have their entire database

That is one example. Consider further all the patches and integrated solutions you may have in your current software that require an upgrade to fix a potential vulnerability. This is actually occurring all the time, especially with the more legacy applications or servers. Now, just factor in the impact to your processes and downstream costs if an upgrade is required due to a vulnerability. Such a scenario can cause your other systems to change or slow down or even break. This disruption is often overlooked, but it is a cost that builds over time and a big reason why you need to consider the total cost of ownership. 

If you are reading this and you don’t have a clue what I am saying, that would be a great reason to have someone pay attention to your software security. Keep in mind that “your person in the chair and not the computer” might be your greatest risk. If you’re not paying attention to it, then who is? 

Security is at the forefront of GrowPath, where we hold several cybersecurity patents — with more pending. If you read the news, you know why GrowPath built security into its foundations. It’s vital to be secure in today’s environment. Cybersecurity is ever-evolving. In GrowPath, we offer everything from two-factor authentication (including state-of-the-art U2F key authentication) to our own patented image authentication method.

Communication 

If attorneys (and bar associations) can agree on anything, it would be the importance of attorneys communicating with their clients. For many law firms, communication includes email and phone calls. Increasingly, firms are adding texting to the mix. These things are commoditized technologies. However, the manner in which these things are incorporated are not. 

For example, in GrowPath, we have the ability to seamlessly integrate with cloud-based telephony that adds a whole new dimension to a law firm’s ability to leverage its call data. Our in-house SMS feature allows for sending and receiving texts from clients. Not only that, but the application automatically adds the texts to the notes of the matter. The software alerts you when there is a reply. 

We also have a patented email routing system which performs a similar function for email. This says nothing of our ability to utilize voice dictation, so one can easily add a note directly into the client record. 

The modes of communication may not change as commonly as other things; however, the manner in which technology adopters utilize these modes are in a constant state of advancement.

Data 

I recently spoke at a conference where I likened data to paint colors on an artist’s palette. As an example, consider the at-fault carrier in a motor-vehicle accident – let’s say, “StateAll.” Most firms use this information for valuation (StateAll may have a reputation of being a more difficult carrier, so the case may be less desirable), or simply knowing to whom the demand package should be delivered. I see so much more that you can do with that information. 

In GrowPath, we can aggregate that information and use it with our artificial intelligence to project an estimated case value. Parties use this, along with our patented Buzzwords technology, to discover additional actions during a case intake. We can aggregate all cases with StateAll as the insurance provider and analyze the cases for patterns. Truly, the possibilities here are endless.

The number of technical tools available to today’s plaintiffs’ firms has never been greater. If Kurzweil is right, this trend will continue at an even greater pace than ever before. Each day a firm fails to evolve and adapt is a day that sees the StateAlls of the world and other competitive law firms take a step ahead. Eventually “status quo” firms will fall further and further behind and, at a certain point, diminish. Today’s technological advancements require immediate action and adaptation by firms or they will be left behind. We encourage you to check out what GrowPath can do for your law firm.

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