Last week, we had the pleasure of attending the London Law Expo, which welcomed more than 2,000 visitors from the world of legal practice management, technology and IT security. Over the course of the day, legal industry experts shared insights into the technologies that are transforming the practice of law – from knowledge management and HR to security and compliance.

As firms strive to keep pace with the changing market, it’s necessary for them to stay atop the latest innovations, trends and technologies that can help bring their firms into the future. During the event, Sysero’s Phil Ayton shared some perspective on advancements in legal IT during a panel discussion on “Legal IT – Emerging Technology,” moderated by Jason Plant, Head of Lawyer Knowledge, DLA Piper. Phil was joined by Adam Stewart, Director of Technical Solutions, Introhive; and Robert Florendine, Solutions Manager, iManage.

The panel shared ideas for fostering innovation in law firms, looked at what it means to be “disruptive,” and questioned the reality behind some of the industry’s biggest legal tech buzzwords.

What is it about AI?

While AI is all the hype in the legal industry, most of the panellists agreed that it’s just that – hype. Not much has changed in the field of law in the past few decades. However, firms are now feeling pressure from clients to be more efficient, transparent, and service-focused.

AI is a term that’s applied to many different systems that do many different things, yet it’s morphed into a one-size-fits-all solution in the minds of many law firm leaders. Have a document management challenge? No problem, just AI it.

The truth is, no AI available for law firms can master a firm’s complex challenges without human input. To evolve with the times, firms need to tap into technology that improves the way lawyers work, and ultimately enhances the relationships they have with clients. While AI may be a part of it, it’s not the end-all, be-all.

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

Law firms tend to be risk-adverse organisations, so fostering a culture that favours innovation can pose a significant challenge for many law firm leaders. So, how can law firms make innovation a priority?

The answer lies in effective collaboration. Technology alone isn’t enough to modernise today’s firms; true innovation requires participation, consensus, coaching and motivation. Without collaboration, it becomes incredibly difficult to develop radically new ideas and push them through to fruition.

As Phil Ayton noted during the panel, collaboration doesn’t have to be limited to people. Forward-thinking firms should be exploring ways for people and technology to work together. Advances in automation technologies have made it easier for firms to tightly integrate people, processes and technology to transform the way law firms solve business challenges.

Internet of Things (IoT)

While the internet of things may be changing our home lives, panellists agreed it still hasn’t made much of an impact in the law firm. One of the most prevalent examples of IoT in legal is the use of voice-assisted software. A host of legal tech providers have tried to integrate with Alexa – Amazon’s online voice assistant, yet the technology and market fail to live up to the hype.

Though Alexa is one of the most advanced voice platforms on the market, it still has many limitations – from its inability to recognise different voices to difficulty in understanding phrases and words. Furthermore, there’s a host of security issues to consider.

While the future of IoT within law firms may be on hold for the moment, there’s still ample opportunity for law firms. As Adam Stewart explained, IoT has the potential to bring in loads of new work for firms, as companies try to understand regulations and rules surrounding IoT.

As a final point, Jason Plant concluded with an emphasis on the important of technical innovation within today’s law firms. As client expectations continue to evolve, firms need to find new ways of unlocking the power of people and technology and identify ways for the them to work together.