YourABA November 2011 Masthead

eLawyering forecast: Six predictions on tomorrow’s law practice

Richard S. Granat and Marc Lauritsen co-chair the ABA eLawyering Task Force, created in 2000 within the Law Practice Management Section to help lawyers learn how to deliver legal services online. In the decade since the group’s formation, the possibilities afforded by the Internet have exploded, and Granat and Lauritsen lay out their predictions for the next five years in a recent Law Practice Magazine article.

Almost all law practices will use client portals - The cost of extranet technology has come within reach of even the smallest firms, say Granat and Lauritsen, predicting that nearly all law practices will use client portals by 2016. Such portals provide a personalized web space for each client, giving the firm an online platform to offer a wide range of functions once provided by telephone, mail and in-person contact.

Widespread use of web-enabled document automation - Non-law firm service providers like LegalZoom have already found success in providing online document preparation. Soon, firms of all sizes will be in the mix. Widespread adoption of Internet-based document automation is imminent, as the technology becomes easier to use and more lawyers deliver services through client portals. 

Interactive advisory applications will be prevalent – The U.S. Immigration Services uses an online interactive questionnaire to help immigrants determine their citizenship eligibility. Such applications that generate conclusions by manipulating a series of if-then statements will be widespread in the legal profession, say Granat and Lauritsen, who see these programs providing legal answers to clients. With the ability to alert the lawyer to situations that require more personal service, these applications offer attractive efficiencies that outweigh the difficulty in programming them.
Small firms will band together to form service delivery networks – The emergence of networks such as LawPivot, Total Bankruptcy and Smarter Will that bring together lawyers with similar practice areas is likely to influence others to form, as these networks allow small law firms to aggregate their marketing resources for collective market power.

Extensive use of cloud computing - While many lawyers are wary of cloud computing, in five years, skepticism will dissipate and its use will become widespread, say Granat and Lauritsen, who cite the growing Software as a Service industry and its focus on client-facing applications. At an affordable cost, cloud technology will offer more than online data storage. Look for client portals, document automation and interactive advisors, predict the authors.

Law school curriculum changes – Granat and Lauritsen note several efforts to reinvent legal education to address how technology has transformed law practice. While schools that teach students about cutting-edge practice technologies are rare, institutions such as the University of Miami Law School and Chicago-Kent College of Law are now integrating technology-based learning into their programs.

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