Its been a big year for legal tech. Over the last 12 months a plethora of new solutions have hit the market. We have seen contract analysis tools like Ravn and Kira thrive. Firms have been increasingly successful at storing and analysing their data. A host of new process automation tools have arrived.

For those of us working in legal tech, we have also noticed the difference this year. Law firms have been more open to innovation than ever before. It seems that firms are really looking to build lasting relationships with their legal tech providers. But what have been the biggest successes and failures in 2017 for legal tech? We looked back over the last year and bring you our personal highs and lows.

Success – Big Data

We inevitably had to begin our list of winners with Big Data. Data is our most precious commodity at Clocktimizer. Our NLP (Natural Language Processing) algorithms are able to analyse and categorise years of time card data in a matter of minutes. In doing so, lawyers can identify everything from the profitability of a matter, to controlling budgets in real time. However, 2017 has been the year that Big Data has been embraced more widely by firms. In addition to using platforms like Clocktimizer, firms are now looking at how Big Data can inform other choices.

Ravel Law’s ‘Judges Analytics’ is one of the prime examples. The service allows lawyers to search through every decision made by particular judges to see who would be most sympathetic to their arguments.

“The data is visualized through Ravel’s dashboard in a way that makes it easier to spot connections and opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.” Bernard Marr, Forbes

Big Data also seems to be well on the way to making our justice systems more fair. The recent Lammy Review  (looking at racial bias in UK courts) analysed years of court data. They discovered that juries, not judges, seem to be better at keeping race out of their decision making. The study cites the need for more data to be definitive. Perhaps 2018 will be the year that Big Data makes a real impact on both courts and firms.

Failure – Cyber security

Unfortunately, 2017 was also the year of ransom ware attacks. These attacks, malware which would spread with ease from computer to computer, hit law firms hard. Most notably was the Petya attack which hit DLA Piper at the end of June. It effectively kicked out all telephone and email communications at DLA for days. The firm found it difficult to recover their systems and were forced to work remotely for over a week.

This attack was not the only one. Many firms experienced some sort of data breach in 2017. Research even shows that 40% of firms who experienced a data breach in 2016 didn’t realise it had happened. Most of these ransom ware attacks are often the result of phishing emails. These emails impersonate known people or organisations in the hope that they will be opened. Once opened these emails can deposit the ransom ware into their host’s system. Clearly, firms need to help their lawyers brush up on cyber security in the coming months.

Success – Clio & Cloud computing

The silver lining to the security debacles of 2017 has been the rise of the cloud. A recent survey indicated:

“More than one-half (51%) of the 79 Am Law 200 firms that responded to ALM’s 2015 Am Law-LTN Tech Survey answered “yes” when asked whether they use cloud computing.” Thomson Reuters

This trend has grown in 2017. Attacks like Petya showed that on-premise solutions are not a safe as believed. Human error and ransom ware leave them equally vulnerable. As such, the cloud is finally being recognised as a legitimate alternative to in-house architecture.

Better still, cloud based solutions tend to require less resources for firms. They cost less and are easier to implement. It is why smaller firms have taken to them so readily. Clio’s yearly Clio Cloud Conference gave an insight into just how far cloud based solutions for firms have come. They launched Apollo, a complete redesign of their market leading practice management software. They also gave some insight into their user’s data. Did you know that on average a lawyer is only paid by clients for 1.6 hours in an 8 hour work day? Cloud based solutions are clearly allowing lawyers greater insights into the business of law.

Failure – Buzzwords

As the CEO of Fastcase, Ed Walters put it:

“Every time you call something a ‘robot lawyer’, God turns a chihuahua into a muffin.” Ed Walters, 2017 COLPM Futures Conference

With the rise of legal tech, so too have we seen the rise of the buzzword. AI, blockchain, algorithms. However, 2017 also saw a decline in their use. Lawyers are universally demanding solutions not buzzwords. It is no longer sufficient to say you use AI in your product. Lawyers are demanding companies explain what benefit that AI brings. At Clocktimizer we attended a number of great conferences this year. Each and every one highlighted the need for solutions not stories.

So how can you separate the truth from the buzzword in 2018? We recommend you read the “no-BS” blog of D. Casey Flaherty. He adeptly analyses many of the empty promises of legal tech marketing. He also offers advice to legal tech companies and lawyers looking to evaluate products. And if you’re really unsure what counts as unnecessary usage of buzzwords we found a prime example of what not to do on Linkedin or check out our list of translated buzzwords here.

“SingularityNet raises $36M in 60 secs in an ICO to build out its decentralized blockchain-based marketplace for AI algorithms” Jeff Weiner, Linkedin

Success – Legal Geek

Before we round off this list with our final success, Legal Geek, we want to run through some (dis)honourable mentions. 2017 has also been a great year for workflow automation. Companies like Encompass and Legatics have thrived over the last 12 months. It has also been the year of partnerships. Our inboxes have seen a never ending stream of announcements between firms and legal tech companies. On the negative side, Deutsche announced it will no longer pay for junior associates work. Will 2017 be the year that begins to squeeze out junior lawyers? We hope not.

But back to our final winner of 2017. Legal Geek, headed by the indomitable Jimmy Vestbirk. We were lucky to be invited to demo in the startup alley at Legal Geek’s yearly conference in London. What a difference a year makes. The conference itself had over doubled in size. It was fun and vibrant and had exciting speakers and engaged attendees. Legal Geek itself has also been working hard behind the scenes. From organising meetups, to supporting startups they have become one of the most influential legal tech groups of 2017. Not to mention they have done a fantastic job at promoting women in legal tech. Congratulations!

We’d love to hear about your winners and losers of 2017. Tweet at us or drop us an email!