Historically, that is the time when folks make predictions for the 12 months forward – however in 2021 predictions appear considerably hole. No one anticipated 2020’s world pandemic, though it has been flagged up as a chance a number of instances in latest many years. In fiction, Nigel Watts’ 1995 novel Twenty Twenty is about in 2020 throughout a pandemic (Watts died in 1999, so didn’t witness the accuracy of his dystopian imaginative and prescient). ‘If something kills over 10 million folks within the subsequent few many years, it’s most definitely to be a extremely infectious virus slightly than a struggle,’ stated Invoice Gates in his 2015 TED speak, ‘The subsequent outbreak? We’re not prepared’, which was impressed by West Africa’s Ebola virus epidemic. Nevertheless, I can’t discover point out of a possible pandemic in predictions for 2020.

‘It’s arduous to make predictions, particularly concerning the future,’ is a quote attributed to Yogi Berra, the late baseball coach of the New York Yankees, and well-known Danish physicist Niels Bohr (pictured above), amongst others. This 12 months’s varied authorized tech predictions embrace ‘gentle on the finish of the Covid tunnel’, a post-pandemic ‘return to regular’ and a wide range of purposes for synthetic intelligence and automation starting from predictable to extremely imaginative.

However the optimism, it’s clear that Covid-19 is lasting lengthy sufficient to result in everlasting adjustments to the enterprise of legislation, which for the primary time is fully depending on know-how. So slightly than try to make predictions, this text highlights a number of the alternatives and threats dealing with authorized tech in 2021.

Alternatives and threats

We’re unlikely to see a return to the workplace any time quickly, which is a matter for a lot of corporations whose workplaces symbolize an vital a part of their model. Tech developments for 2021 mirror this, with new merchandise designed to help distant, cell and hybrid working together with new, quicker smartphone fashions – foldable, rollable, scrollable, multi-screen and so forth – and the rollout of 5G to laptops in addition to telephones. Higher connectivity helps cloud performance, together with streaming companies and related units, and unsurprisingly, an explosion of well being, hygiene and disinfection tech.

Digital transformation and the shift to cloud computing/Software program as a Service (SaaS) began earlier than the pandemic. Entrepreneurs and traders noticed the potential of making use of know-how to the conservative, however extremely worthwhile, authorized sector. And legislation corporations realised that an ‘progressive’ model improved their market place within the face of elevated competitors from various authorized companies suppliers and the Large 4 consultancies.

In the meantime, public sector {and professional} establishments noticed the alternatives that cloud know-how introduced to make authorized companies and the courts extra environment friendly and accessible. The pandemic is accelerating digital transformation and progress in the direction of on-line courts, uncovering challenges and alternatives alongside the way in which.

The pandemic mindset

Regardless of the various challenges introduced by Covid-19, the connection between legislation and know-how is benefiting from what Azeem Azhar describes in his Exponential View podcast because the ‘urgency, creativity, constructive competitors and collaboration of the pandemic mindset’.

Arguments round attorneys’ reluctance to undertake know-how constraining legislation agency innovation have pale within the gentle of corporations’ fast change to working and speaking on-line, by way of Zoom or asynchronous communication platforms. As Jack Newton, CEO of authorized software program vendor Clio, instructed Enterprise Insider, ‘10 years of authorized transformation occurred in 10 months’.  

In one other instance of pandemic urgency, 2020 noticed fast adjustments within the authorized tech panorama. Virtually each week there have been two sorts of announcement: vital funding rounds boosting start-ups and scale-ups, and M&A exercise accelerating market consolidation.

These developments fulfilled expectations that the tech adoption necessitated by the pandemic would gas a increase in authorized tech funding – each by way of funding and buying. Globally, contract administration and automation firms are attracting essentially the most funding capital, and follow administration system distributors have been the preferred targets for acquisition. US lawyer and authorized know-how journalist Robert Ambrogi, writing for Above the Legislation, recognized the pandemic as a key think about these offers as a result of it accelerated legislation corporations’ transfer to cloud-based methods and digital funds.

Whereas 2020 noticed extra collaboration, with the institution of recent alliances and multi-vendor platforms, competitors within the authorized tech ecosystem has not at all times been constructive. Within the US, AI analysis pioneer ROSS Intelligence was compelled to shut following a copyright problem introduced by Thomson Reuters, which ROSS is disputing on the grounds that judicial opinions within the US usually are not copyrightable (tinyurl.com/y7yjk2x7). The optimistic aspect of this unlucky scenario was collaboration between ROSS’s former opponents Fastcase, v Lex and Casetext that are giving ROSS clients and entry to justice account holders free entry to their platforms for the rest of their contracts. Nevertheless, this raises the query for authorized tech purchasers of what occurs if you put money into start-up know-how that’s discontinued or acquired, and you want to change suppliers or platforms unexpectedly.

One other sensible problem which Covid-19 has exacerbated, and which can proceed into 2021, is introducing new processes and know-how to a completely distant workforce, and coaching and fascinating customers who’ve already needed to alter to working on-line. That is about enhancing tech competency amongst attorneys and speaking successfully throughout an internet consumer group, enabling it to entry IT and peer help with out overwhelming folks with on-line directions and Zoom conferences.



Information ethics in relation to AI and automation has been a serious dialogue subject for a number of years. Final week, an Italian court docket determined that Frank, the algorithm utilized by Deliveroo to assign scores to riders, was discriminatory as a result of it mechanically penalised riders for a late cancellation with out recognising when this was on account of an vital motive, like a household emergency. However AI software program may also be used to struggle discrimination and harassment. Authorized tech start-up Valla makes use of knowledge extraction and evaluation to foretell possible awards in discrimination instances.


The Worldwide Bar Affiliation lately produced a paper on Belief Tech, methods that use rising tech akin to AI and blockchain to facilitate higher reporting and consciousness of harassment within the office – which hit the headlines in respect of a number of legislation corporations in 2020. This supplies a protected area for workers to talk up, both anonymously or confidentially, thereby driving cultural change.

Regulation vs innovation

As authorities regulators {and professional} establishments are more and more concerned and investing in authorized tech, they’ve purchased themselves the correct and duty to affect its path and think about/resolve what it may possibly and ought to be allowed to do. This raises the thorny problem of regulating authorized tech, notably when it’s utilized to consumer knowledge. Conversely, there’s a threat that over-regulation would inhibit authorized tech’s thriving start-up tradition. Steven Tover, CEO at Israeli authorized analysis start-up AnyLaw, which supplies a free service, expressed ‘concern that the massive gamers would use regulation to restrict competitors and innovation’. Nevertheless, he provides that regulation might tackle issues of consumer confidentiality, knowledge privateness and privilege between attorneys and their shoppers.

Matt Hervey, companion and head of synthetic intelligence at Gowling WLG, and co-editor of The Legislation of Synthetic Intelligence, believes that any regulation of know-how will have an effect on legislation corporations, including that customers of AI software program, together with legislation corporations, want to grasp the sensible dangers. ‘AI instruments are usually statistical slightly than deterministic – they intention to be proper for a suitable proportion of the time however may even make errors,’ he explains. ‘Whether or not that’s acceptable will depend on context. It could be applicable for dashing up reviewing paperwork for disclosure in litigation or as a part of due diligence of a big knowledge room for a company deal, particularly the place the duty can be inconceivable with out know-how. It could be inappropriate the place a big contract must be reviewed totally for its implications [for] an uncommon situation.’

Matt Hervey

In 2019 former Legislation Society president Christina Blacklaws’ Expertise and the Legislation Coverage Fee explored the usage of algorithms within the justice system: how explainable ought to synthetic intelligence methods should be when they’re used to help judicial choices or use court docket knowledge to foretell case outcomes? The latter is especially related because the British and Irish Authorized Data Institute allowed Oxford College researchers to conduct AI evaluation on England and Wales court docket judgments (tinyurl.com/y7smus32).

However the rising use of automation in litigation processes and court docket procedures shifting on-line, the court docket digitisation undertaking is way from full and courts stay open for face-to-face hearings through the present lockdown. ‘The tech, at current, doesn’t help decision-making in UK courts as we judges give the judgments nonetheless, not the machines,’ explains deputy district decide Karen Rea. ‘We use Zoom and Cloud Video Platform in court docket so [the issues are] extra about knowledge safety and governance.’ Clearly there may be nonetheless some technique to go earlier than AI justice turns into a regulatory problem in England and Wales.

Bohr stated ‘each nice and deep issue bears in itself its personal resolution . It forces us to alter our considering to be able to discover it’. Maybe 2021 would be the 12 months when authorized innovation will get actual.