The past year has been one for the record books. A few months ago, the pandemic seemingly began to recede as vaccination rates increased. Offices started to reopen, and people emerged from their homes with high hopes for a return to normal.
And then the arrival of the Delta variant changed everything. Reopening plans were put on hold, and people began to wear masks again, with visions of normalcy fading away. COVID infections are up, and as a result, employers are now grappling with whether to shift back to remote work entirely or to implement a hybrid workplace. In-person interactions are being really reduced, and the future is once again plagued with uncertainty.
Not surprisingly, the practice of law has not been immune from all these changes.
The effects of the pandemic have been wide-ranging and felt in all corners of the legal world. The unexpected transition to remote work changed the practice of law as we know it, and the impact will be felt for years to come. As uncertainty abounds, lawyers are continuing to adopt technology into their practices at unprecedented rates, and this newfound interest adapting to the “new normal” has dramatically impacted the way that legal services are being delivered.
The changes spurred by the pandemic have also impacted the legal technology sector as well, resulting in another notable trend—a large number of mergers, acquisitions and funding rounds in the legal technology space over the past 18 months. At first glance it might seem that the heightened interest in the legal technology sector is related to the increased investment in legal technology tools, as discussed above.
But not everyone believes that to be the case. Some contend that the legal technology space was heating up long before the pandemic struck, and what we’re seeing now is simply a continuation of that trend. Others believe that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, and that today’s growth is the result of a combination of the market expansion that was already occurring along with an accelerated interest and investment in the legal technology space, driven in large part by the pandemic’s impact.
Certainly, there’s no right or wrong answer, and many questions remain. Will the renewed interest in the legal technology space outlast the pandemic? Is the unprecedented growth good for both lawyers and their clients? Will this investment stifle or increase innovation in the legal technology space?
For the answer to these questions and more, I turned to a roundtable of legal industry experts from a variety of different backgrounds. The roundtable includes:
Charity Anastasio (CA), practice management advisor for the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Practice & Professionalism Center
Zach Warren (ZW), editor-in-chief of ALM’s Legaltech News
Joe Patrice (JP), editor at Above the Law
Carolyn Elefant (CE), lawyer, author and founder of PowerUp Legal
Kevin Ryan (KR), executive director of the Monroe County Bar Association
What follows are their insights and predictions about the future of legal technology and thoughts on what the recent legal technology investment and growth means for the legal industry as a whole, for lawyers and their practice, and for the clients that lawyers serve.