In my view, 2020 will be the year information management and governance are no longer abstract concepts, but critical elements of legal industry strategies and programs. Over the past few years, we have seen legal leaders expand their roles into the areas of privacy, security and information governance. With regulatory change and data privacy protection on the rise, I predict this trend will continue. Also, I expect further erosion of the current legal services ecosystem and greater efforts to leverage technology to curb costs, boost productivity and retain talent.
Data privacy management will be a top priority
2020 will usher in a new era of data privacy in the United States. The impact of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will be enormous, placing greater emphasis on consumer rights and the type of personal information collected and used. Legal professionals will need to both mitigate CCPA risks and get out in front of other existing or potential privacy regulations and the tsunami of litigation likely to follow. Expect cross-functional teams of legal, compliance and privacy leaders to devote significant time to operationalizing privacy programs, automating workflows and leveraging technology to locate personal data and information covered by privacy laws.
eDiscovery and privacy are converging
In 2020, legal departments will continue to adopt a more centralized approach to managing eDiscovery and incorporate it into a broader data management and governance strategy. Powerful search and analytics tools will be used to identify and classify data and to understand what it means, how it is used and why it should be retained. Expect cross-functional teams to adopt workflows and use eDiscovery technology beyond traditional purposes to support new or different use cases (e.g., optimizing Data Subject Access Request processes for data privacy requirements).
Law firms will make major strides to improve data security
Law firms continue to remain attractive targets for cybercriminals because of the sensitive client information they possess and their reputation as cybersecurity laggards. This will be the year that law firms take aggressive action to revise security policies, update incident response plans and implement technology to better protect, monitor and control data access. With improved security measures, law firms will be better equipped to satisfy client-directed technology audits, comply with ethical obligations and mitigate the risk of a data breach.
Legal services delivery providers continue to gain momentum
The days of law firms having exclusive control over the practice of law are over. In 2020, the re-shaping of the legal services delivery model will continue as law firms face even greater competition from the Big Four public accounting firms and other Alternative Legal Service providers (ALSPs). According to the Thomson Reuters 2019 Alternative Legal Services Provider (ALSP) Report, in just the past year, 23% of large law firms said they had competed and lost business to one of the Big Four. And while some innovative law firms are creating subsidiaries to develop or leverage existing technologies to differentiate themselves, most will continue to lag behind.
New mix of skills and roles emerging
Over the past few years, the legal industry has seen a rise in legal operations professionals managing the business of law. Altman Weil, in its 2019 Chief Legal Officer Survey, reported that 46% of law departments surveyed have full-time or part-time operations managers, up from 39% the year prior. There has been an influx of additional roles focused on legal process and technology. Expect an increase in non-traditional roles such as the Chief Legal Innovation Officer and Chief Strategy and Data Officer that support client engagement, process optimization and technology innovation. Other hires will include business analysts, data scientists and software developers with a wider range of skills to advance innovation.
Increased use of AI and analytics to improve case strategy and productivity
The legal industry has yet to embrace AI fully, but will increase the use of the technology this year. In 2020, we expect to see greater efforts to pilot and implement AI/analytics leveraging historical data to identify patterns to predict outcomes as well as improve decision-making in litigation strategy. We will see more legal departments and law firms deploying AI and intelligent text mining to improve case preparation. AI will be used to automate or accelerate activities such as contract review, case management and eDiscovery with increased accuracy and efficiency so teams can focus on higher-value work.
The rising need for workforce retention and flexibility
Today’s law firms are feeling pressure to improve agility not only to win more business from clients but to retain top talent. With a younger workforce in place, the industry is facing a cultural shift toward work-life balance. In 2020, the industry will see increased investments in technologies that increase flexibility. Expect more mobility features, SaaS and secure web-based technologies allowing professionals to work where and when they want. We will also see a push for workload automation, since these tech-forward Millennials will be running legal departments and firms in the not-so-distant future.
So here you have it – my predictions for an industry faced with a complex regulatory landscape and the need to remain competitive in the marketplace.