It’s half way through the first month of 2019 and it’s time for Sprout IT’s annual speculative article on what’s might be coming in the next 12 months for the legal sector as the sound of the relentless march of technology into the legal sector gets louder and louder.
So, what’s in store for 2019?
More competition from non-traditional firms driven by tech
We’ve already seen other companies, particularly consulting and auditing firms, encroach more and more onto the territory traditionally occupied by legal firms, particularly in the provision of employment law subscription services.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are not only changing the way that law firms operate but they are also allowing other companies to build their own legal teams offering services to others on a tighter cost base.
The effect is already being felt in the provision of conveyancing services. Toni Ryder-McMullin in Today’s Conveyancer writes that AI "has the ability to read and understand several leases about one client and pull out and risk assess important terms – enabling lawyers to spend time with their clients which require human skills instead...AI can review documents in seconds when it could take a lawyer hours to complete and make due diligence and other compliance tasks more efficient – by halving the time taken on due diligence work."
Clients become even more client-centred
The process of digitisation and the move into cloud services has picked up real pace in the last three years and it’s changing the way that law firms interact with clients. Clients now demand best-in-industry service and much faster response times to queries and concerns than previously.
While new technology and AI will mitigate some of the costs involved in providing this level of service in sometimes very niche areas of law, business models may have to change to allow firms to compete profitably for work.
The investment in such technology and the pain of any restructuring and reorganisation is likely to pay dividends more in the medium term than the short term because the investment itself will improve retention of clients and potentially widen the scope of billable services on offer.
Sharper focus on security as ICO gets restless
Did you know that, since the introduction of GDPR, only three regulatory fines have been issued across the whole of Europe? And did you know that the ICO has only moved once against a company despite a rise since the summer in data-related complaints of 160%?
Well, not many people do. We were always warned that the ICO would take a softly-softly approach in the first few months after introduction and the warnings were right. We expect to see a significant shift up in gear in the quantity and the ferocity of ICO responses to GDPR and data breaches, most likely targeting the companies who can afford it the most.
An interesting opinion peace in ITProPortal by Jake Moore suggests that some companies will be more inclined to pay a ransom than report a breach to the ICO and potential victims because the ransom will be smaller.
USA seriously considers GDPR-like law
Following the fall from grace of Facebook and the seemingly countless number of data breaches suffered by companies in the USA, some are predicting that America will devise and implement its own version of GDPR and that they’ll do it soon.
More on what the law could look like in these great pieces from Jonathan Reiber on Nextgov and Catherine Chapman on Port Swigger Web Security Digest.
Opportunities with class actions
And, finally, on the subject of GDPR, we expect a few enterprising law firms to launch class actions against companies successfully targeted by cybercriminals looking to steal personal and confidential data.
Hayes Connor were first out of the traps following the embarrassing hack into TicketMaster’s website. Users’ email addresses were stolen as was financial information, some of which was successfully used to defraud customers of their money.
They launched a no-win, no-fee compensation class action on behalf of a significant number of TicketMaster’s victims, rightly pointing out that any ICO fine against the firm will not compensate users in any way.
Is this the shape of things to come? For companies who don’t pay a ransom, a focused and determined ICO married to a class action for every company whose data is breached? We think so.
What do you think 2019 is going to bring?
We’d love to hear your thoughts about our predictions and to hear some of yours too. Who knows – with your permission – we may even feature it as a blog and ask you to be interviewed for it!
To share the findings of your crystal ball, call us today on 020 7036 8530 or email us.