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Predicting the 2020 legal market

A look at the past and future of legal tech

January 13, 2020

Home Blog Research & intelligence Predicting the 2020 legal market
Blog_ 2020 predictions

The 21st century in law, so far

The “Roaring 20s” are back in a new century with new circumstances, but with a similar feeling of change and continuing advances in science and technology. We join the chorus in looking both forward and backward, focused on the legal industry, which underwent a period of transformation in the 2010s. The 2020s remain anyone’s guess, so we’ll start with a reprint of an article our CIO Ron Friedmann published on his own blog, Prism Legal.

Ron Friedmann predicts the legal market in 2020

The following are Ron Friedmann’s thoughts and predictions from his blog, Prism Legal.

I’ve worked for three decades in the corporate legal market and have witnessed many incremental changes but few dramatic ones. Yet, Big Law today does look rather different than it did when I started in the 1980s. The new look, however, flows from many small changes.

Consistent with that view, here are my 2020 predictions, consolidated from three other publications that published them. The first two are very short, just a sentence each. The third and last is a bit longer so I quote only the title.

Creating consolidated platforms as an idea gained traction in 2019. Legal tech nonetheless still seems fragmented to me, so I think there are more opportunities to combine.

Rise of the ‘Platform’ Slated to Drive 2020 Legal Tech Deals (Bloomberg Big Law Business, Sam Skolnik, 18 December 2019)

“I’ll go out on a limb with one specific prediction: legal innovation talk will peak but innovation activity will continue, albeit with less noise about it.”

Artificial Lawyer Readers’ Predictions For 2020 (Artificial Lawyer, Richard Tromans, 18 December 2019.)

Incremental Change

25+ Legal Tech and Business of Law Predictions for 2020 (Aderant, December 2019). Here is the full text:

Law practice and law firm business: 2020 will see incremental change, notwithstanding the ongoing hype about innovation and AI. Even very visible economic changes—the e-commerce driven de-retailing of the US—takes years to unfold. Law won’t move faster. With so many new legal products and new law firm innovation leads, the market needs time to absorb and deliver.

Competitors to law firms and the supply side: 2019 saw Big 4 moves and explosive legal tech funding. As with law firms, the impact will take time to play out. We’ve heard a lot about investment. Until we hear about returns, I am skeptical 2020 will bring more big investment or dramatic change.

Clients and legal operations: Both will mature in 2020. As I see the data, rapid growth of legal ops has peaked, and it now faces a period of focusing on greater impact instead.

Two 2020 wildcards: First, keep an eye on US states that may re-regulate law firm ownership rules. Outside owners would be big, but the UK experience suggests not market busting. And second, a recession? If law firm demand plummets and management slashes costs, which law firm innovation initiatives and legal tech companies survive?

As I am fond of saying, I hope I am proven wrong by a big event in 2020.

Looking back at the 2010s with Robert Ambrogi

Along with Ron Friedmann, Bob Ambrogi is a well-known and highly respected legal expert. We’ll balance the future view of law with his retrospective on the decade we’ve left, which he says was:

“…a decade of tumult and upheaval, bringing changes that will forever transform the practice of law and the delivery of legal services.”

Mr. Ambrogi explores a list of fifteen changes and trends, some significant and others with less hype (or more hype than reality), that are summarized below.

Ten significant legal developments

  1. Surge of the legal tech startup
  2. Less resistance to cloud computing
  3. Mobility and untethering with smart devices
  4. Practice management discipline and technology
  5. Legal ethics and other regulatory upheaval
  6. Focus on client service and satisfaction
  7. Legal industry globalization
  8. Artificial intelligence (AI) from fear to adoption
  9. Influx of legal tech investments
  10. Data-driven legal practice

Five legal tech honorable mentions

  1. Cybersecurity
  2. Blockchain
  3. ALSPs (Alternative Legal Service Providers)
  4. Legal operations
  5. Women in law

The views of Ron Friedmann and Bob Ambrogi are great mirrors that reflect the current and possible future state of the legal industry. We monitor them to help you and to help us better serve our law firm and general counsel clients.

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