In legal technology, it was a decade of tumult and upheaval, bringing changes that will forever transform the practice of law and the delivery of legal services.
Feisty startups took on established behemoths. The cloud dropped rain on legacy products. Mobile tech untethered lawyers. Clients demanded efficiency and transparency. Robots arrived to take over our jobs. “Alternative” became a label for new kinds of legal services providers. An expanding justice gap fueled efforts at ethics reform. Investment dollars began to pour in. Data got big.
Every year, I write a year-end wrap-up of the most significant developments in legal technology. But as we reach the end of a decade, I decided to look back on the most significant developments of the past 10 years. Looking back, it may well have been the most tumultuous decade ever in changing how legal services are delivered.
(Here are my prior years’ lists of the most important developments: For several years now, I’ve closed out the year with a round-up of the 10 most important legal developments 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013. In 2017, I bypassed the list to focus on a single overarching development, The Year of Women in Legal Tech.)
1. The Surge of the Startup
The very first month of the very first year of the decade brought big legal tech news – the introduction of WestlawNext. It was a major advance in legal research, the first major overhaul of Westlaw since its initial Web version was launched 12 years earlier in 1998. WestlawNext was the first to bring Google-like simplicity to legal research and the first to use a machine learning algorithm to deliver better search results, long before anybody called it “artificial intelligence.” It would inspire a generation of legal research copycats, including the following year’s launch of Lexis Advance, with that same Google-like search.
As the decade drew to a close, Thomson Reuters again unveiled a major overhaul of its legal research platform with last year’s launch of Westlaw Edge. It was another major advance for Westlaw, using advanced AI and analytics to help legal professionals find answers and perform research more efficiently and with better results.
But this time, the launch felt different. With WestlawNext, Thomson Reuters was the trailblazer, defining the path that others would follow for years to come. With Westlaw Edge, it felt more as if the company was playing catch-up. As impressive a product as it is, there was a palpable sense at its launch that the company had rushed it to market in the face of an increasingly innovative and competitive legal research market.
At the dawn of the decade, the dominance of Westlaw and LexisNexis in legal research was unquestioned. By the end of the decade, a growing field of innovative competitors had upended that dominance. Bloomberg Law, which launched in December 2009, continued to gain traction, albeit slowly. Fastcase and Casemaker became more than simply middle-tier players. Most notably, feisty upstarts such as Casetext, ROSS Intelligence, and Ravel Law brought fresh thinking to the field, introducing features and tools that had the big players playing catch-up.
One striking example of this is Casetext. In 2016, it introduced CARA, a first-of-its-kind product that could analyze users’ uploaded briefs using AI and find relevant cases the brief missed. CARA’s popularity and success inspired a generation of similar products, first from other legal research startups – such as EVA from ROSS Intelligence, Clerk from Judicata, and Vincent from vLex – and then earlier this year from Thomson Reuters, with its Quick Check, and Bloomberg Law, with its Brief Analyzer.
This, for me, is the most striking story of the past 10 years – the rise of the startup. Over the course of the decade, the legal tech industry has changed dramatically, from one controlled by a handful of dominant legacy companies to one driven by a surge of creative and feisty startups whose products are changing how law is practiced and legal services delivered.
While my example involves legal research, my premise applies across the spectrum of legal technology. I defy anyone to name an area of legal technology in which startups are not at least having a major influence on the development agenda, if not defining it. Further, to the extent they are defining it, they are often actually redefining it, changing forever our thinking about how we do what we do.
The poster child for this is Clio. As the decade started, Clio was still a fledgling company, having formally launched its cloud-based practice management platform near the end of 2008. Clio – along with Rocket Matter, which launched soon after – was quixotic in its quest, lobbying lawyers to move their practices to the cloud at a time when lawyers literally feared the cloud. It was the very model of a feisty upstart.
As the decade closes, Clio is now the big kahuna of practice management. This one-time outsider is now the status quo, a position sealed just months before the decade’s end with news of a jaw-dropping $250 million funding round – one of the largest investments ever for a legal technology company.
Undeniably, it has been the decade of the startup, a decade that brought multiple stories of ambitious law students and innovative lawyers launching companies that quickly became major players. Sure, there were plenty of failures too. Not everyone can or will succeed. But somewhere out there right now is the next Clio, the next Fastcase, maybe even the next Westlaw.
So my number one pick for the top-10 stories of the decade in legal tech is the startup – and the influence startups have had, and will continue to have, in shaping and reshaping the legal industry.
2. Skies Clear for the Cloud
For anyone new to law practice in the last 10 years, it may be difficult to fathom the degree to which lawyers feared the cloud a decade ago. We still see evidence and remnants of that, as many firms continue to resist moving core functions to the cloud. But where a decade ago the cloud seemed ominous, it now is widely accepted as inevitable.
A decade ago, companies that launched their products in the cloud were still considered adventurers, maybe even gamblers. Today, non-cloud companies – those that banked their futures on on-premises technology – are scrambling to move to the cloud, building cloud versions of their products or acquiring compatible cloud companies, while those that started in the cloud are prospering.
One conspicuous example of this is NetDocuments versus iManage. NetDocuments started as a cloud service way back in 1999. After struggling for many years to sell lawyers on its message of cloud superiority, it is now prospering as one of the most popular document management systems in legal. Meanwhile, iManage, whose on-premises product was long an industry leader, saw the need to develop a cloud version, which it launched in 2016.
In the early years of the decade, talk of the cloud often focused on the ethics of lawyers using the cloud. Starting in 2009 and 2010, states began issuing a spate of ethics opinions on lawyers’ use of the cloud. At the first Clio Cloud Conference in 2013, I spoke on the Ethics and Security of Cloud Computing for Lawyers. The year 2013 brought the ABA book, Cloud Computing for Lawyers, by Nicole Black, the first (that I recall) comprehensive examination of the risks, benefits and ethics of cloud computing for lawyers.
It was just last year when I opined here that we had finally reached the point of the legal profession’s general acceptance of the cloud as something to embrace, not fear. That was the year that marked the 10th anniversaries of the launches of Clio and Rocket Matter, the first two practice management applications to launch in the cloud, initiating a new era in development of practice-management products and wider use of those products by legal professionals.
Some among you might argue that we’d reached that point much earlier, others might contend we’re not yet there. But what nobody can deny is that, over the course of the last 10 years, we have come 180 degrees in our use of the cloud. What started the decade as still an outlier technology now ends the decade as the core of most law practices.
Something else that nobody can deny is our trajectory forward. As we cross over into a new decade, there is no question where the future lies. It is in the cloud.
3. The Untethering of Law Practice
The first iPhone came to market in June 2007, the first Android tablet in 2009, and the first iPad in 2010. These smart devices, combined with the growth of the cloud, ushered in a new era in mobility. Over the course of the decade, lawyers went from being effectively tethered to their desks to being able to work from anywhere.
Think about that. Think about how much time you spend every workday on your iPhone (or whatever smartphone you use). Think about the emails you read, the texts you send, the documents you view, the research you perform, the calls you make, the texts you send, the time you log – all on your phone.
Think about where you are when you work on your phone. Many large firms have cut way back on office space and encourage their lawyers to work virtually. Many smaller firm lawyers do not even have offices, choosing instead to work from home, from coworking spaces, or from the proverbial Starbucks.
All that is largely new to law in the last decade. And it happened quickly. By 2012, nearly half of lawyers were using iPhones, according to the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report (although 57% of large-firm lawyers still used the BlackBerry). Now, 79% of lawyers have an iPhone and 18% have an Android phone. Just 2% say they have no smartphone.
The untethering of law practice over the last decade has been a sea change so dramatic and so far reaching that we hardly even notice it anymore. But it has changed law practice forever.
4. The Proliferation of Practice Management
Practice management is not the sexiest of topics, given an industry abuzz with talk of artificial intelligence, analytics and blockchain. But it is an area of legal technology that has had a profound impact on the legal industry over the last decade. It has been instrumental in moving us from a profession that barely used technology to one that now sees it as essential and routine.
There can be no denying that this change was sparked in 2008 with the launches of Clio and Rocket Matter, the first two companies to offer practice management software in the cloud. By bringing to the cloud what had already been available as desktop technology, and by making it easier and more intuitive to use, they ignited a revolution in the use of legal technology, inspiring a slew of similar companies and making cloud-based practice management one of the most competitive areas of legal technology of the last decade.
Today, this sector offers lawyers an embarrassment of riches, with products such as CosmoLex, Firm Central, MyCase, PracticePanther, Smokeball and Zola Suite delivering a robust range of features, options and capabilities.
It is also a sector that is maturing, with developments in recent years such as LexisNexis’s shuttering of Firm Manager in 2017; the acquisition by one of the oldest practice management companies, Tabs3 Software, of one of the new cloud-based platforms, CosmoLex; and the acquisition by private equity firm Alpine SG of PracticePanther.
The biggest news in this sector, and one that appropriately came just a few months ago as a capstone to the decade, was the $250 million investment in Clio, the company that helped spark this trend a decade earlier. One of the largest investments ever for a legal technology company, it underscored how important practice-management technology had become during the past 10 years – and how much potential it still has to evolve over the next 10 years and beyond.
5. Upheaval in Legal Ethics
We were just shy of the start of this decade when, in 2009, then ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm appointed a special Commission on Ethics 20/20 to consider whether advances in legal technology and the globalization of legal practice called for changes in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
No one could have known then what a tumultuous decade it would be for legal ethics, or that the decade would close with major challenges underway to long-accepted standards of legal practice and professional regulation.
Indeed, the Commission on Ethics 20/20 did call for changes. To my mind, the most significant – one I described at the time as a sea change in the legal profession – came in 2012, when the ABA formally approved a change to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology. In the years since, I’ve tracked states’ gradual adoption of this duty, and as the decade comes to a close, the number of states reached 38.
On top of that, two states have now made it mandatory for lawyers to receiving continuing education in technology. Beginning in 2019, all lawyers in North Carolina were required to complete one hour per year of CLE devoted to technology training, joining Florida in mandating CLE, after it became the first state to do so in 2016.
But tech competence was only part of the decade’s ethics story, as various forms of alternative legal services companies began to test the limits of what was allowed in serving the legal needs of the public.
No company offers a better example of this than Avvo. Controversial from the moment it launched in 2007 for its then-audacious plan to rate lawyers, it further pushed the envelope in 2014 with the launch of Avvo Advisor, a service that provided on-demand legal advice by phone, delivered by an attorney within 15 minutes, for a fixed fee of $39.
A little over a year later, it pushed further, beginning the roll out of Avvo Legal Services, providing a variety of limited-scope legal services for fixed fees ranging from $39 (for 15-minute advice sessions) to $2,995 (for applying for a family green card).
Ethics regulators choked, prompting ethics rulings in several states saying Avvo’s marketing fee for sending lawyers these cases was an impermissible referral fee. In fact, for more than a decade, Avvo faced a constant barrage of lawsuits and ethics battles that led it eventually to give up on its alternative legal services.
The irony, of course, is that the legal world as the decade closes is a much-different place than it was in 2007. The innovations Avvo introduced (or refined) – consumer-friendly lawyer ratings, fixed-fee services by phone, fixed-fee limited-scope legal services, robust Q&A forums, and libraries of consumer-facing legal articles – are now broadly recognized as useful for consumers and even accepted as standard fare.
Now, as the decade closes, the most significant development of all is the emerging push for the kinds of regulatory reform that no one could have imagined 10 years ago – for reforms that would allow private companies to participate in the ownership of legal services providers and that would broaden the ability of individuals who did not attend law school to practice law.
Just a few weeks ago, Utah’s Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform – an initiative of the Utah Supreme Court – posted the website that will serve as the hub for its Legal Services Sandbox, an unprecedented experiment in enhancing access to justice through the loosening of traditional restrictions on legal services.
That follows a vote by a State Bar of California task force that could lead to sweeping changes in the lawyer regulatory structure in that state. In July, the State Bar’s Board of Trustees authorized for public comment a set of regulatory reform options, which the task force is now working to refine based on the comments received. Soon after, an Arizona task force made a similar call for fundamental changes in the regulation of legal services. Other states – including Illinois and New Mexico – are also looking at loosening regulations on legal practice, while others – notably Utah and Washington – already license non-lawyers to practice law in limited circumstances.
So in a decade that started with an ABA commission to explore whether lawyer regulation had kept pace with advances in technology, it ends with substantive initiatives to expand the delivery of legal services beyond lawyers – even to allow the delivery of legal services in some cases with no lawyer in the picture. In a decade scarred by battles between the organized bar and companies such as Avvo and LegalZoom, it ends with growing acceptance that we need companies such as these if ever we are to serve the legal needs of all.
This decade brought upheaval in legal ethics and regulation such as we have never seen before – and it has set us on a path of reform from which there is no turning back.
6. The Ascension of the Client
His timing could not be better. In a few weeks, as we edge our way into the next decade, Jack Newton, cofounder and CEO of Clio, will release his book, The Client-Centered Law Firm: How to Succeed in an Experience-Driven World. His thesis is simple – the firms that will see the greatest success in the future are the firms that adopt a client-centered mindset and consistently create client-centered experiences.
There is nothing new about the proposition that providing better client service is a key element of law firm success. Others have told us this for generations. But Newton puts his finger on the fundamental way in which technology has upended this equation. It is that clients (aka customers) have come to expect an effortless experience that delivers good value. This is how companies such as Amazon and Uber disrupted their industries – but it is a lesson many in the legal profession have yet to learn.
Over the past decade, the tables have turned, with clients wielding more power than ever before in the delivery of legal services. It has brought about a change that futurist Jordan Furlong captures succinctly in the title of his 2017 book, Law is a Buyer’s Market. “Newly empowered clients have adopted aggressive buying behaviours and begun dictating the terms of their relationships to law firms,” he says. “Law has become a buyer’s market, and it’s never going back.”
Indeed, the rise of the client has been a defining trend of this decade. It is a trend driven by the demand for better access to legal services, better service from legal providers, greater accountability from legal providers, and fairer and more-transparent pricing.
One place we have seen this trend play out dramatically over the past decade is within corporate legal departments. Seeking greater value and more control over their spending, corporate counsel have taken more work in-house and demanded greater accountability from their outside counsel. This trend is directly responsible for the growth in the use of alternative legal services providers over the decade and for the expanding influence and importance of legal operations professionals.
But there is another, potentially even more significant, way in which the client has driven the development of legal technology and of the legal profession over the past decade, and that is the growing recognition of the profession’s failure to meet the needs of the majority of those who need legal help. These are not the clients we serve well, they are the clients we fail to serve adequately or at all.
This has been a decade in which study after study has documented the failings of the legal system to serve the poor, the middle classes, the disenfranchised, small businesses, and many other segments of our society. It has been a decade in which companies such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have prospered by seeking to serve those populations. It has been a decade in which we have come to accept that technology is an essential ingredient in serving those populations.
Thus, from all sectors of our society, from the very rich to the very poor, from the largest corporations to the smallest businesses, the needs of the client – or, I should say, the unmet needs of the client – have come to shape our thinking about technology and the future of legal services. The legal profession has always been about serving the client, but over the decade it has become the client, more than us, who is driving how we do that, now and into the future.
7. The Global Networking of the Legal Industry
Two trends converged during this decade, with dramatic results for legal technology.
Well before the decade began, the legal industry was already becoming more global, driven by developments in technology and trade well documented by Thomas Friedman in his 2005 book, The World is Flat.
And even as Friedman was documenting that phenomenon, another was occurring – the emergence of social networking. LinkedIn launched in 2003, Facebook in 2006, and Twitter in 2006, and by 2010, legal professionals were already beginning to make use of these networks. For example, in a 2009 review, I found that a number of bar associations had established Facebook pages, and in 2008, an AmLaw 200 firm became the first to use Facebook for recruiting. By 2013, 59% of lawyers said their firms had a presence on social network such as LinkedIn or Facebook (mostly LinkedIn).
But as the decade began, most of law practice – and therefore most of legal technology – was still primarily provincial, focused largely on what was happening here in the U.S. In the early part of this decade, most of us in the U.S. were ignorant of and uninterested in what was happening in legal technology in the rest of the world.
As the decade closes, the world of legal tech has become flat. We have discovered that we are anything but provincial in the problems we seek to address or the solutions that we seek to develop. We are learning that, to a surprising degree, the problems that face the legal and justice systems in any one country are the problems shared by every country. As the decade closed, I could attend a legal tech conference in Moscow and participate in conversations that paralleled those at any legal tech conference in the U.S.
In a post here last year, I credited this development, at least in part, to the Global Legal Hackathon, an event that united 600-1,000 teams in 40 cities and 22 countries around a global effort to hack better legal tech. No question, that event was successful in opening many people’s eyes to the global nature of legal technology. But, as I look back over the decade, I realize that the real credit for that globalization lies elsewhere.
The real credit lies in the convergence of the economic flat-world syndrome and the world-shrinking impact of social network – with emphasis on the latter. Not only did world trade bring us together on an economic level, but social networks facilitated our personal connections and our ability to discuss and share our commonalities. As successful as was the Global Legal Hackathon, without the underlying connections of social media, it could never have occurred.
Think about how the legal profession’s use of social media evolved over the decade. In 2010, both Facebook and Twitter were still relatively nascent companies, and LinkedIn, although eight years old, was just beginning to gain significant momentum. In that year, just 17 percent of firms maintained a presence on any social network, with most of those on LinkedIn. By 2019, that number had risen to 80% of firms.
Social media knows no borders. Through blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, legal professionals are connected to and engaged with their peers in every corner of the globe. The problems we face as legal and justice professionals are universal, and so are the solutions we build to address them.
8. The Widening Adoption of Artificial Intelligence
At the start of the decade, AI wasn’t really a “thing” in legal. At the close of the decade, it seems to be everything.
At the start of the start of the decade, to the extent lawyers even knew about AI, many feared it as a robot competitor (as exemplified in the New York Times headline, Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software). At the close of the decade, they understand that AI is not a robot that will replace them, but rather a robotically enhanced exoskeleton that will give them superpowers.
At the start of the decade, AI’s primary use in legal was in e-discovery, where machine learning was employed to cut the time and cost of document review. At the close of the decade, AI is pervasive, used not only in e-discovery, but also in legal research, contract review, contract management, litigation, expert systems, e-billing, and more.
As I look back over my own year-end reports, I see the progression of AI’s adoption in legal:
• In 2013, I discussed the increasing use of technology assisted review (TAR) in e-discovery and cited it as evidence of lawyers’ growing acceptance of AI.
• In 2014, I said (optimistically) that AI technologies were becoming accepted as essential and commonplace (again still primarily in e-discovery).
• In 2015, I took note of Judge Andrew J. Peck’s decision stating that TAR had become so widely accepted by judges that it had become “black letter law.” That year, I also noted that AI had come to legal research, with the launch of the AI-driven legal research company ROSS Intelligence.
• In 2016, I said that the legal industry had finally gotten smart about AI, with its use growing by leaps and bounds, as evidenced by developments that year such as search giant Thomson Reuters’ announcement that it was getting into the AI game, and the announcement of an alliancebetween Deloitte and Kira Systems “to bring the power of machine learning to the workplace.”
• In 2018, I said it was the year that AI got an MBA, noting that the once-fledgling technology was now among the most dominant technology businesses in in legal.
In 2018, of $1 billion invested in legal technology that year, $362 million went to companies whose products use AI. In my post earlier this year charting 2019 investments to date, the majority of the companies used AI in some fashion.
Many say that AI is still a nascent technology. But over the past decade, it has gone from virtually unheard of in legal to pervasive. It may be true that we are still in the early days of realizing AI’s full potential in the legal field, but it is also true that AI will continue to dominate the legal tech conversation for years to come.
9. The Accelerating Influx of Investments
I have not yet tallied the total investment in legal technology during 2019, but when I added up the numbers in September, I found that the year had already set a record. At that point, the total investment had already surpassed $1.2 billion, exceeding the 2018 record of $1 billion.
Now consider this: For all of the decade’s first seven years, from 2010 to 2017, the total investment in legal tech was $1.5 billion. That included the “fluke” year of 2015, in which over $426 million was invested – a number skewed by two major investments that year, $125 million in e-discovery company Relativity and $71.5 million in legal directory Avvo. In both 2016 and 2017, funding dropped precipitously from that 2015 high.
So it is likely that, when the final tally is made, the total investment in legal tech for just 2019 will exceed the total for the decade’s first seven years.
And further consider this: While that $125 million Relativity investment in 2015 was considered huge, we have now seen a series of investments that dwarf that.
The year 2019 was bookended by two examples of this. First came news in January that Onit, a company that provides enterprise workflow products for legal management and contract management, had received a $200 million strategic investment. Then in September, the cloud law practice management company Clio announced a jaw-dropping $250 million Series D funding round – one of the largest investments ever in a legal tech company and the largest ever in a Canadian technology company.
Investors’ tepid interest in legal tech during the early years of this decade was likely attributable to a variety of factors, among them the legal industry’s slow adoption rate for new technology, the industry’s notoriously long sales cycle, and investors’ lack of familiarity with the industry.
But as the decade progressed, the legal industry’s adoption and use of technology quickened and innovative new products caught the attention of a market ripe for innovation. Investors saw this and became increasingly interested in – and knowledgeable about – the legal industry.
The legal industry has turned a corner on its use and adoption of technology. Law firms are becoming innovators, legal departments are demanding efficiencies and process improvements, a cavernous justice gap cries out for better delivery systems, and regulatory reform efforts foretell a new era of private-sector involvement in the delivery of legal services.
Investors get this. The surge in investment that marked the end of this decade is not just a trend – it is a condition of the market from which there is no turning back.
10. The Emergence of Data-Driven Legal Practice
For generations, the watchwords of the legal profession were intuition and experience. Whether as a lawyer advising clients or a judge deciding peoples’ fates, our wisdom was our most-valued asset, and the primary driver of our decision-making was gut instinct. Not only did we not use data, but it was not available to us even if we wanted to.
The problem with that is that we have no real understanding of what works and what does not. As James Greiner, director of the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School, told me in 2017, “In no field is resistance to evidence-based thinking more ferocious than in United States legal practice.”
However, in the last few years, lawyers have started to appreciate the value of data and the insights it can provide. The most dramatic example of this has been litigation analytics – tools that take data derived from court dockets and documents and apply analytics to make predictions about likely outcomes or patterns. As I wrote in a column a year ago, we could be nearing the point where it would be malpractice for a lawyer not to use analytics.
At the center of the litigation analytics story has been LexisNexis. Following its acquisitions of Lex Machina in 2015 and Ravel Law in 2017, it expanded on the foundations established by those products and integrated them into its legal research platform Lexis Advance. The defining moment for LexisNexis came in July 2018, when it put a stake in the ground to claim the analytics space. “Our vision … is to put the power of data-driven law in our customers’ hands,” Jeff Pfeifer, vice president, product management, said at the time.
Of course, LexisNexis is not the entirety of the litigation analytics story. Thomson Reuters put down its stake with its 2018 launch of Westlaw Edge, which for the first time brought detailed docket analytics to the Westlaw research platform. Elsewhere in the legal world, Fastcase released its Analytics Workbench, to allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics, and judicial analytics company Gavelytics got new funding and expanded the scope of its coverage. A study this year looked at many of these products and compared their results.
And litigation is only one facet of the larger analytics story. Legal professionals are using analytics in an array of applications, from business development to law firm ranking to legislative tracking to practice management to contract management to public records and beyond.
To go back to Greiner’s point, the legal industry is even beginning to understand the need to collect better data for evidence-based decision-making. Consider Utah’s new Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform, which says its experimental sandbox will be “driven by data” in order to protect consumers and design effective solutions for narrowing the access-to-justice gap.
At last, it seems, the legal profession has discovered the value of data as a tool to drive more-informed and more-strategic decisions across all aspects of practice.
Five Honorable Mentions:
Here are five other developments over the decade that will shape the legal profession for years to come:
- Cybersecurity insecurity. Ah, for the naïve days of 1999, when the ABA issued an ethics opinion saying in so many words, “Don’t worry about encryption, your data is secure.” Fast forward to 2017, when the ABA felt compelled to update that opinion. This time, said the ABA, the cybersecurity question lawyers need to ask is not if, but when.
- The buzz around blockchain. One of the most talked-about technologies of the last half of the decade was one that did not exist in the first half. But for all the buzz around blockchain, we are still waiting for the killer app.
- The growth of the ALSP. The decade brought the rise and proliferation of alternative legal service providers such as Elevate and UnitedLex. They have become so dominant and mainstream a force that it is no longer accurate to call them “alternative.”
- The rise of legal ops. Over the past decade, the legal operations professional has become one of the most influential positions in legal departments and law firms. Reflecting this has been the founding of the Corporate Legal Officers Consortium (CLOC) and the creation of a legal operations section within the Association of Corporate Counsel.
- Women move to the forefront. Women have played leading roles in the development of legal technology for as long as there has been legal technology. But as I wrote in a 2017 column, the latter part of the decade seemed to be a turning point for women in legal tech, with women at the forefront of the industry to an unprecedented degree, leading companies and holding other positions of influence.