Thoughts from FutureLaw 2014: Designing Ediscovery for Susskind’s Future

Jon and I attended FutureLaw 2014 last week.CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics

FutureLaw is an event held at Stanford Law School and sponsored by Codex, the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. The conference’s emphasis is on what’s next in legal technology, with keynotes and panels from big thinkers in the space, including both academics and practitioners.

We’ve found the conversation stimulating in the past, and this iteration was no exception. To me, the highlight was Richard Susskind’s opening keynote, “The Future of Lawyers: From Denial to Disruption”, which covered several fascinating predictions for the future of law.

13 Disruptive Legal Technologies

Naturally, we at Everlaw share Susskind’s essential belief that advances in technology will change the way law is practiced. He discussed 13 specific disruptive legal technologies:

  1. Automated document assembly
  2. Relentless connectivity
  3. Electronic legal marketplace
  4. E-learning
  5. Online legal guidance
  6. Legal open-sourcing
  7. Closed client communities
  8. Workflow and project management
  9. Embedded legal knowledge
  10. Online dispute resolution
  11. Intelligent legal search
  12. Big data
  13. AI-based problem solving

As we’re actively working on the vast majority of these technologies (nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13), I can’t say we disagree much with him on this point!

Technology Transitions

Also interesting to me was Susskind’s thesis about how law firms react to technological change, from denial in the short term—“hoping for no real change”, in his words—to disruption in the long term, as new technologies become so powerful that they simply can’t be ignored.

Why are lawyers so resistant to change, when, say, the consumer space is thronging with people lining up to buy the newest iPhone? It’s not that lawyers are Luddites; they’re simply, and understandably, more concerned with maintaining mastery over the ever-changing law than they are with learning new and esoteric technologies only tangentially related to it.

The mentality that specialists like lawyers must also develop deep technical expertise will change. Rather, legal technology vendors should strive for the same elegance and ease of use that iPhone owners tout for their handsets. That design goal is just as important as any technical ones.

It’s our job at Everlaw to make new features not only groundbreaking, but also as accessible and user-friendly as possible. Too many lawyers view their technological toolbox as a necessary evil; we’re excited to improve the tenor of that conversation!