The Tech Revolution Is Changing The Legal Field, And We Need To Respond In Kind

The technology revolution of the last half a century certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. Everyday life is notably different for everyone. Big data and the IoT (internet of things) have created an interconnected network of devices that puts just about everything we need right at our fingertips. No one under the age of 60 has managed to escape the changes the tech revolution has spurned, including JDs.

It’s no doubt that big data is already affecting the way we practice law: from more accurate client billing, to improved document reviews, to marketing analytics, law firms are taking advantage of the advances the tech revolution has to offer. This all comes as no surprise, as these benefits were easy to implement across a number of fields and professions. But law firms are starting to dig deeper into the benefits (and issues) that data analytics present, and so far, there’s been mixed reviews.

Last year, Forbes did a piece in how law firms are taking big data even further. It talked about how firms are starting to look at how data analytics tools can aid in the research and preparation phases of cases, and discusses two of the beginning entities of large case detail databases that currently function mainly as search engines, which so far only provide jumping off points for lawyers. There hasn’t been too much in the way of adding advanced analytics to these engines, but rest assured, those functions are on their way, and they’re set to revolutionize the way JDs do business.

This comes as a relief to some, and a terror to others. Researching current and past cases makes up a huge portion of what practicing lawyers do every day, and is the bane of many of our existences. But, if you replace those processes with machines, how much will there really be left to do, and how much expertise will really be needed from us JDs?

The American Bar Association’s stance is somewhat mixed: they praise recent e-discovery advances, as well as the potential for data analytics to help lawyers find and serve clients more efficiently. They also acknowledge the worries lawyers have about this technology working against them, especially when it comes to the ability of clients to quickly analyze the performance and pricing data of them and their competitors.

In the end, The ABA concludes that big data is here to stay, with all of its good and bad implications. They warn that it’s every JDs job to learn about big data and data analytics so they can keep up with the fast-paced changes the early adopters are barely on par with, and this is important for many reasons.

The first reason is attached to all of the privacy and security issues that come along with the big data revolution. According to Pepperdine University, 49 percent of businesses rate themselves as analytically challenged, meaning that they are not up to par with their industry’s business analytics and intelligence advances, and only ten percent see themselves as analytical innovators. You’d think that the sensitivity of the information JDs handle everyday would mean that law firms do not tout such egregious percentages, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

In an article discussing recent legal tech developments, JD Robert Ambrogi points out how law firms are well behind the times when it comes to handling and securing their data. Even in the wake of some of the biggest hacking and ransomware attacks the world has ever seen hitting the news on a weekly (sometimes even daily) basis, the majority of law firms are underprepared for such attacks. Ambrogi cites a survey that found that “only 37 percent of law firms use encryption and only 38 percent impose any type of file-access restrictions.” That’s well below the national average for all types of business.

The second reason has a lot to do with the lack of laws regulating big data, and the lack of legal experts in the field. According to Maryville University’s Business Analytics experts, 2016 saw the big data and data analytics industries pull in $130 billion, and that amount is projected to rise to $200 billion by 2020. If you think about it, what hundred billion dollar industry doesn’t have its own cadre of expert lawyers at its disposal? Well, the big data industry, that’s what.

Part of the reason for the lack of tech and data lawyers is likely that it’s not one single, solidified industry, represented by similar people who do similar things (for instance, dairy farmers, or prescription drug companies.) While there are a multitude of tech companies that work solely in big data, data analytics, and the IoT, very few industries don’t utilize and leverage these tools and technologies, so the entire industry itself lacks representation.

The other part of the reason is that there simply aren’t enough JDs who know enough about the tech industry to keep up with its developments and serve it properly. This is likely due to to the fact that lawmakers can’t keep up with the industry well enough to create laws that properly regulate and protect it. To say that the big data front is currently the new Wild, Wild West is not an over-exaggeration: if you don’t believe me, these are just a few of the biggest breaches this year alone. Hackers and malicious software developers are riding into town after town and plundering, with very little in their way, and very little consequence.

What we need right now isn’t just lawyers who are well-versed in the tech and data industries; we also need politicians and lawmakers who are educated and skilled enough to step in and get things moving. It’s not uncommon for JDs to turn to a career in politics, and if you’ve ever wondered if a career in politics is right for you, now would be a good time to consider it, especially if you’re already tech savvy, and up for the challenge of learning even more about the vast and ever-changing world of big data.

They used to say that women couldn’t be lawyers, but we are proving them wrong. Many are still saying that women can’t thrive in the tech industry, but again, we are proving them wrong. Of course we can thrive in either, or both, of those places. Can you?

Will you?

The tech revolution is in need of legal assistance. Are you one of the Ms. JDs that has what it takes to change the world forever?


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