Here are my top predictions for what to expect to see in the legal technology sector in 2018 and beyond.

1. Distributed Ledger Technology

2017 was the year that distributed ledger technology (DLT) grabbed attention as a really useful piece of technology for the mainstream beyond just cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. We saw the Land Registry, Bank of England and Department for Work and Pensions exploring DLT.

Expect to see further collaborations between law firms and lawtech companies that utilise distributed ledger technology (such as blockchain) in their products.

1a. Smart Contracts

Built on top of DLT (so I don’t think it deserves its own number!) we will see more of smart contracts this year, with Agrello and Clause two startups to keep a close eye on. Last year Clause launched the Accord Project, which brings law firms and technology providers together to establish open source tools and standards for developing smart contracts.

2. Cherry picking lawtech providers

Law Firms will start to move more towards cherry picking ‘best in class’ solutions to solve particular problems or improve service provision within their firms. We will start to see a shift away from having just one lawtech provider. CTO’s at law firms will need to adapt the  way they work, as software solutions will be championed (and possibly even adopted) by lawyers without much intervention from the CTO who in the past might have been used to having to push lawyers to adopt new technology. See The Legal IT Department of the Future for more on this topic.

3. More Avocado Toast

Greater collaboration between lawtech providers themselves are likely, with the most interesting partnerships being the ones that create something new and unique in the marketplace (a bit like Avocado Toast). Similarly there will be a trend for law firms to move towards lawtech providers whose products can be easily plugged into other platforms so that data can be moved between them seamlessly.

4. Chatbots

We saw some great chatbots arrive in 2017 including DoNotPay, BillyBot and Robot Lawyer LISA. There is still a great deal of potential for innovation in this area – especially as the platforms that underpin these chatbots continue to grow more sophisticated too. More niche chatbots solving specific legal needs will appear this year.

England & Wales specifically…

5. The start of the homebuying revolution

The responses to the Government consultation on Improving the home buying and selling process are now in. The outcome should be a clear roadmap for shaking up home buying process and removing some of the pain points experienced by homemovers and conveyancers, and the beginnings of the digital home buying revolution, where completions take hours not weeks.

2017’s Housing White Paper Fixing our broken housing market committed HM Land Registry to becoming “the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity, and an open approach to data and will aim to achieve comprehensive land registration by 2030”.

John Abbott, HM Land Registry’s director of digital, issued a warning to conveyancers at the Conveyancing Association’s annual conference in London last December:

“If I were a conveyancer…I would hire as many technologists as I do solicitors. I expect, certainly, the administrative elements of more work will disappear over the next few years. … I would focus on adding most value through the advice bit rather than the administrative bit.”

Conveyancers will need to take advantage of legal technology that allow them to interact with their clients more easily online and saves them time on the administrative elements of the conveyancing process, in order to keep pace with the changing demands of modern consumers.

6. Law firms will start publishing prices through their websites

Regulators of legal services in England and Wales will this year enact regulations that require law firms to publish prices through their websites – starting with conveyancing. According to research published by the Legal Services Board in November only 11% of firms advertise any prices for conveyancing on their websites, 9% of of firms were planning to start advertising prices and 74% had no plans to do so!

The new regulations will lead to many firms having to change their mindset quickly, and decide how to best meet the new regulations – either by developing their own tools in house, or choosing a fee estimate tool provider to work with.

Also published on Medium.

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