This is the full version of my predictions and insights published in an edited format in Legal IT Today #16 on 20th Dec 2016… 1 In your field of expertise, what do you believe will be the most important trend in 2017? I can envisage the most important trend in 2017 will be an increasing number of imaginative new AI Apps and bots deployed into the legal ecosystem by existing legal providers (lawyers and law firms) and new entrants to the legal market (entrepreneurial new ventures, legal tech geeks and/or students), in a whole range of fields of law for both commercial reasons and ‘social good’ intent. Invariably, imaginative legal provider business models which are far removed from the traditional law firm business model, will expand. These algorithmic AI Apps and Bots are much cheaper and faster to create, develop, deploy and take to market than traditional and/or blue chip vendor technologies, therefore I predict a proliferation of these kinds of new services and products meaning many businesses and consumers will reap the benefit of enjoying ‘machine and human’ legal services and products for the very first time. Robot lawyers will be the catalyst that opens up the latent legal market. The trend will be for many of these new AI App and bot providers to deliver access to legal services by helping to open up the latent legal buyer market and serve the excluded majority – those 80% of businessmen and women in the USA, 54% of all SMEs and 33% of consumers in the UK, and the ‘unknown’ marginalised number of people in other countries across the world who do not use a human lawyer because of the many well documented and reported prohibitive reasons. New, improved, high quality, cost effective and time efficient AI App and Bot legal services and products which empower people to ‘help themselves’ will be warmly received by legal buyers as they will go where no human lawyer has gone before, thereby activating a dormant area for the benefit of lawyers / the legal profession and the legal buyer, that is, the latent legal market buyer. According to the LSB in the UK, there is a £5bn latent legal services market in the UK alone, which is untapped due to consumers and businesses resisting using a human lawyer when they need one. Collectively, lawyers, entrepreneurs and social activists will begin to unlock this market in 2017. As new legal buyers, and existing legal buyers, become more comfortable engaging with machine lawyers (AI Apps, bots, Robot Lawyers) and therefore human lawyers (as users of AI Apps and bots etc will need more advanced, delicate, sensitive and complex legal matters to be handled by a human lawyer), more people will begin to engage with (and turn to) human lawyers a great deal more for legal work as the law expands. Albeit many providers will use AI Apps and Bots as marketing bait to fuel more complex and high value legal work to be done by human lawyers, some providers will develop AI Lawyer Robots that produce sophisticated outcomes in the form of intelligent assessments and high end documents; replacing the need for the human lawyer entirely for basic legal support / documents / advice etc. 2 One of the hottest topics in 2016 was Artificial Intelligence. When do you think AI will significantly change the market for legal services? In 2017. Globally. It will be much sooner than many futurists, gurus, experts and consultants predict for the reasons I shared earlier. It won’t be 18 months, two, three, five or ten years from now. AI is already beginning to change the market in the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and South America, albeit in a tiny way in 2016. However, I predict 2017 will be a launch pad year when lawyers, suppliers and buyers will experience a notable shift in the way robot lawyers support and replace human lawyers, particularly in serving those people who have never accessed legal services and/or had that privilege before. 3 Legaltech startups dominated the news in 2016. Will they start becoming a threat to traditional vendors in 2017? In relation to the legaltech startups that I am aware of, I would say that many of them could actually complement traditional vendors and would in fact enhance the overall service offering. In 2017 I would hope that the new legal startups (with their advanced technology) and traditional vendors (with their entrenched relationships) will collaborate and come together to provide a more complete service for law firms and/or direct to the legal buyer. Many of the new legal start-up products and services could plug into some existing vendor technology. Surely, this an opportunity and benefit for all, not a threat?
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