Lawtech 365 CEO on what 2022 may hold for the legal tech sector

Clare McAndrew

9 January 2022

Rudi Kesic, a major player in the field of legal technology, provides his views on the future of law, legal sector regulation and technological advancements.

Virtual law, artificial intelligence and automated AML compliance are three hot topics in the legal sector today. To get an idea of where these areas of law will evolve in 2022 and beyond, we interviewed a heavy hitter in the realm of legal technology, Rudi Kesic, founder and CEO of Lawtech 365 Group, a legal technology company based in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

Q. Virtual law platforms and artificial intelligence are areas of lawtech that are of growing interest to law firms at global level. What do you see happening in the legal sector in 2022?

A. We need to understand the motivation for virtual law platforms, which is the understanding that consumers are spending most of their time at home or at work. The ability to provide legal services remotely to clients at home or at work will not only make their lives better, but also move the legal sector into the twenty-first century. Platforms and apps such as Lawyer 365 will play an important role in the next decade, but they are only a very small piece of the complex “law puzzle”. Said another way – for virtual law to truly live up to its promise, we need to focus less on the devices themselves and more on what they connect to and how we place consumers in the centre of the platform.

Also, automation is in many ways the connector and I believe artificial intelligence automation will be what moves the needle in the legal sector even more than the cloud revolution of 2010. If we were aspiring to provide the best advice to the client and place them at the centre of the client-journey, we would need to be with them all of the time, a “lawyer-in-your-pocket” principle, but the problem with that model is that it's not financially viable. So what’s the solution? With platforms such as Lawyer 365 and our AI Legal Assistant (AILA), we can establish a presence of legal support that is "always on" and never goes to sleep – that is always responsive and interactive with a client in a way that doesn't break the bank.

Digital automated legal assistance for consumers is right in front of us, it’s already here. AI technology such as AILA by Lawyer 365 is powered by a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing, and it is built with escalation paths into higher, more complex (and more costly) levels of automated legal information when needed.

So, I think that “AI-Legal” will be one of the most exciting advancements we'll see take off in 2022 and certainly over the next three to five years, and platforms like AILA will make a deep impact on the legal profession at global level.

Q. What do you see in the realm of legal sector business models in 2022, and how will these impact the balance of where and how law firms and lawyers work in the year ahead?

A. Last year, we saw hybrid-consultancy law firm business models take off like never before, so legal platforms such as Bamboo led by Michael Burne, and Foster Clay Law led by Natalie Foster, that combine in-person and virtual law will begin to reshape the legal sectors across the world. Today, accelerated in large part by the pandemic, there is an understanding that clients will be interacting with legal professionals both physically and through technology – it's inevitable. And on the other hand, we’ll see the rise of hybrid-consultancy law firm models which work with lawyers to assist them with building their own virtual law firms. These new "hybrid-law platforms" will take away all of the hassle and regulatory issues, and reduce the risks by giving lawyers the freedom in how they do business and when they work, leaving the practitioners to concentrate on their clients and fee earning knowing everything else is taken care of.

Also, now that we've accepted that most of our interaction with clients will happen via technology-first platforms, there's a whole new world of opportunity in front of us that we'll begin to see take hold in the years ahead. Specifically, we're seeing a new breed of digital legal platforms powered by automation and AI emerging and finding their place as a meaningful part of the client journey. When I think about technological advancements in the year ahead, it's less about what else legal technology will be able to do and more about how it will work with and be integrated with these new hybrid business models to create a seamless, yet always-available, on-demand client experience.

In fact, the ability to tie together hybrid-consultancy firm models, virtual law tech and technology-driven client care is a completely new model for the legal sector and, if done right, presents a much more economical experience for all.

However, with the influx of various platforms and the plethora of use cases that legal technology is now being used for, it's important to add that we've put ourselves at risk of having a very disjointed client experience.

Our recent survey of practice management systems, conducted in partnership with Advantage Consulting, found the vast majority of law firms in the UK, Canada, USA, UAE and Australia, are using at least three lawtech platforms or systems – and more than a quarter have five or more platforms in place. All respondents reported a lack of integration and interoperability as a major pain point. In 2022, we will see a streamlining of various virtual law apps and platforms boiled down into a single eco-system that not only allows for all the new technological capabilities and apps to work with it, but also for the seamless integration between the platforms. Legal technology companies like Clio are already working on this and building the first "operating" legal software platform.

Q. Why is it important for law firms to invest in virtual practice technology?

The future of the legal sector is digital. This has been made apparent by both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society of England and Wales in their long-term plans, which predicts that in 5 years’ time, the existing model of legal service provision will be markedly different and based on a "digital first" approach. This approach will allow for virtual and more productive consultations with lawyers across the globe, on demand 24/7.

In order to facilitate "virtual first", the emphasis must be on integration and interoperability across the legal system with the client at the heart of their legal matter and in charge of their own legal platform. If traditional law firms want to ensure their place as part of this virtual legal world, then they need to start changing their manual processes and become more digitally enabled. Digital access to law is set to become the norm with over 75% of all 55-64 year-olds and 50% of over 65s now using the internet via a smartphone.

What do you think will be the 5 main developments in the legal sector in 2022?

The legal technology community have the opportunity and responsibility to restructure and reinvent legal services, to meet and exceed the evolving demands of business and society, in our digital world.

1. The Cloud. We are already seeing the impact from early digital disruptors such as Actionstep and Clio technologies which have transformed the way law firms manage their files, store and manage documents, communicate with clients and manage practice finances. More innovation will come from them.

2. Lawyers-on-Demand Apps. Due to the pandemic and demographic changes, people will tend to stay at home and manage their legal issues from the comfort of their home, so virtual law apps such as Lawyer 365 allowing almost instant consultations by video with qualified solicitors, as well as AI-assisted legal chats, will play a major role in the legal sector in 2022.

3. Digital ID/AML Verifications. Most law firms are now starting to use digital verification technology to verify their client's IDs through apps like Verify 365. Not having this technology will start to become a disadvantage.

4. eSignatures with Biometric ID verification. We will see new ways to e-sign legal documents online using verified digital identities. This tech is completely new in the legal sector. For example, e-Sign 365 will launch a new platform in April 2022 which will provide the convenience and simplicity of e-signing, but with the added security of NFC biometric verification and cryptographic technology. Lawyers will be able choose the level of authentication, from one click email to full NFC biometric authentication, the so-called “Qualified Electronic Signatures”.

5. AI and Automation. Recently, some of the more innovative law firms have started to invest in AI and automation to help support their clients 24/7. Like I said earlier, with platforms such as Lawyer 365 and the AI Legal Assistant (AILA) tech, which is powered by a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing, we can establish a presence of “on-demand legal support” that is "always on" and never goes to sleep – that is always responsive and interactive with a client in a way that doesn't break the bank. The growth of these automated AI-platforms will accelerate in 2022.

Q. What is the future of Augmented Reality in law (AR-tech)? And how do lawyers fit into the “metaverse”?

A. Over the next decade, “Augmented Reality Lawyers” are set to revolutionise the legal sector. We’ve seen a huge increase in the use of VR in other sectors and my team still continues to be fascinated and impressed by the potential of different applications of AR-tech in law.

Is “metaverse” the latest easily dismissed buzzword or a new platform that lawyers might have to understand - that's the most important question right now. For those of you who are not “Keeping up with the Zuckerbergs” - the metaverse is his vision for a new virtual place to interact with other humans and bots to play games, conduct business, socialise and shop. That's the metaverse of the future. And calling the metaverse virtual reality is like saying the mobile internet is an app. Point being- the opportunities are endless.

Established companies are already trying out this new kind of “virtual world”. Accenture, for example, has the “Nth Floor”, a virtual space that connects the company's 500,000 employees and clients in virtual meeting rooms and event spaces. It’s absolutely amazing!

In the coming years, augmented reality will be used more and more in the legal sector. Quite simply, the potential for AR-tech in the legal sector is huge, limited only by the creativity and ingenuity of those creating and applying the technology.

While others are catching up with the Lawyer 365 AI-app, I am extremely proud that Lawtech 365 Group are already developing a number of new and exciting augmented reality legal platforms. Watch this space!