Updated: Feb 5, 2020
Nothing is safe from change. Personal habits, pop culture, and professional goals are all moving targets these days. Sometimes, that’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking. But it’s a great driver for improvement.
There are plenty of ways to stay on the cutting edge at work. In a field that is feeling the effects of new and diverse data sources, the chance to stand out seems obvious: getting a good handle on disruptive technology will give you a leg up on your career path.
If you’re seeking to make a name for yourself as the lawyer technologist on the block—or simply hoping to familiarise yourself with the technical language of the day—you’re making a smart choice. There may be some hurdles along the way, but start with these topics and you’ll be set up for success.
#1: e-Discovery Analytics
The use of data analytics during review is nothing new. In fact, the headlines around things like technology-assisted review (TAR) have begun to die down—and, as we learned at Relativity Fest 2017, judges are seeing more cases where parties believe “it’s no big deal” to use TAR.
Now, it’s less about whether you’re using these tools, and more about how to use them to get the best returns.
Your fellow legal teams consider email threading, for example, a no brainer. They’re increasing settlement amounts by 10 times after quickly finding the one document in two million that proves their case. With all kinds of validated, reliable tools at your disposal, make sure you don’t fall behind others’ success.
#2: Artificial Intelligence
When Lola v. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP made headlines, the takeaway was clear: the practice of law is not immune to the use of artificial intelligence as a strong supplement to—or even a replacement for—human effort.
But lawyers do have irreplaceable insight in more areas than one. Years of academic study and professional experience are worth plenty. In fact, your knowledge can have a bigger impact on your case strategies and industry best practices when artificial intelligence is helping to elevate your efforts.
In addition to the e-discovery analytics use cases mentioned above, artificial intelligence has potential as a tool for everything from case planning to document proofreading. Understanding the technology instead of avoiding it will help you take advantage of new ways to save time and save your efforts for the deeper aspects of your work.
#3: The Internet of Things
At least two major legal elements should colour an attorney’s view of artificial intelligence: data privacy and e-discovery.
While things like smart speakers and internet-enabled appliances can surely add some convenience to the average person’s daily routine, they also introduce serious legal questions about the discoverability of associated data. This information can quickly become relevant to criminal investigations, and data from sensors, building security systems, and more can easily end up in the throes of e-discovery for litigation.
How will you be able to advise your clients on matters like these if you aren’t familiar with the technology driving it or the legal developments around it? Given the popularity of IoT devices—I see more smart watches than baseball caps these days—and rapid innovation in the tech industry, questions like these are bound to come up much sooner than later.
Are you prepared for what might happen when you encounter digital assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum in a case? Do you know how to identify whether that type of data might be relevant to a matter? Legal cases in which these issues come up are on the rise, and it’s only a matter of time before one falls on your desk.
Blockchain—the “digital ledger” that makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin possible—is a technology that records transactions across a peer-to-peer network, without the need for validation by a centralised third party (like a bank).
Though blockchain’s beginning has been cryptocurrency, its future is bright with many other possibilities. Best to learn what’s what now and get ahead of the flood.
Take a Deeper Dive at Relativity Fest: Attend “Blockchains: New Opportunity and New Risks” to learn how to handle blockchain technology in the course of your work.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget Why You're Doing This
Technology has an immeasurable impact on the efficiency of legal processes, but it’s lawyers like you who make it all come together for the best interests of your clients. So stay abreast of the latest and greatest innovations, and more importantly, keep your passion for the people who need your help at heart.
Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.