Legal technology – What is on the horizon?

Last week I spoke about the basic marketing mistakes companies often make, and discussed the need to for them be more knowledgeable about the broader trends that can influence their industry.   

After LegalTech West Coast this past week, it is a fitting time to discuss a few of those trends hitting the legal market.

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It’s clear from the conference that innovation is driving three key areas of change: 1) the acceleration of technology adoption, 2) debate around the broader policy and ethical implications, and 3) questions about how companies should navigate constantly evolving regulatory requirements as well as differing interpretations of constitutional requirements – particularly in the areas of privacy and security.

It’s also clear that we’re seeing legal technologies become a more important part of the enterprise value proposition – especially as legal and compliance requirements and responses begin impacting the bottom line. One sign of this trend is the steady stream of large IT companies acquiring legal technologies to incorporate into their portfolio of products. The question is, why?

Litigation often involves copious amounts of data, and the software industry has designed solutions to manage it. But what’s interesting is how people are beginning to recognize that eDiscovery and litigation software has benefits that extend beyond its original intended use cases.

Large companies are generating, storing, accessing, managing and sharing vast quantities of data in new and different ways, and they are constantly looking for the smartest tools to analyze, organize and utilize that data while remaining compliant in an evolving litigation and regulatory landscape.

Smart technology has paid off for companies specializing in this space. For example, last year Microsoft acquired a number of analytics companies for this very reason. Among them was Equivio, a provider of machine learning technologies for e-discovery and information governance. Microsoft now uses the company’s technology within Office365 to perform multi-dimensional analyses of structured and unstructured data, intelligently sorting documents into themes, grouping near-duplicates, isolating unique data and helping users quickly identify the documents that are relevant to their purposes.

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For a company like Microsoft, these acquisitions aren’t necessarily about making a play in the legal technology space, but rather utilizing the analytics expertise of companies that specialize in e-discovery and litigation software to improve document search, organization and compliance across the enterprise.

In another recent example, OpenText, a Canadian company that develops and sells enterprise information management software, acquired Recommind, an e-discovery and information analytics provider, for $163 million. This move is part of OpenText’s strategy to unify IT and business operations in the enterprise space. The idea is to provide solutions that not only allow business to concentrate on the internal and external relationships and processes that support the enterprise, but also give IT the means to analyze and understand the information that flows across those relationships. The company announced that it will utilize Recommind’s analytics capabilities to tackle “concrete and expensive business problems.” OpenText anticipates $70-$80 million in additional annualized revenues as a result.

If you weren’t aware of these developments, you’re not alone. An interesting online conversation initiated by Bob Ambrogi at the outset of Legaltech West Coast and continued by Sam Glover a couple days later focuses of the dearth of legal technology journalists covering such events. What Microsoft and OpenText and others have made clear, however, is that even in the absence of media coverage, business analysts and CIOs and compliance experts who work in other industries are indeed paying attention.

With the ever-growing volumes of data generated in the enterprise, the increasing importance of compliance and the need for tools to manage information-centric processes, I think the trend of large enterprises acquiring legal technology is something we’ll continue to see – and that will benefit not only the legal industry and its technology providers, but also enterprises across a broad range of industries that need better control over and understanding of their data to remain compliant, secure and competitive in today’s marketplace.

Next week, I will take up the topic of artificial intelligence and its future in the legal technology space. Stay tuned!

Valerie Chanlegaltech