Legal information trends for 2018

I blame Star Trek Voyager for this inevitable end of the year technology prediction piece. Part of the attraction of this particular series is spotting ‘futuristic’ technology which is already questionable. For instance, even my old Dell was slimmer than their laptops. Still, as we journey into the unknown, here are a few tech topics which might appear on legal library wishlists and agendas in 2018.

Artificial Intelligence and law

Law firms and artificial intelligence systems developers have demonstrated that the future is here in a practical way. Intelligent systems are becoming the norm for firms as they process increasingly vast amounts of information. As systems integrate across the various parts of the firm, you realise how instrumental the library and information service has been already, e.g., consistent key wording, intranet development, online resource management.

Artificial Intelligence and publishers

As legal publishers improve search engine algorithms, our feedback is required. Just as Google alerts improve when readers flag irrelevancies, and Google Translate relies on linguistic input, systems can only learn if we teach them what we are interested in. Predictive justice systems gather and process information, but commentators agree that all outcomes must be tempered by human judgment.

Legal information services have a responsibility for disseminating accurate current awareness but how can we tell what is real? Various academic and industry groups have been competing to develop tools to help human fact checkers identify hoaxes and deliberate misinformation in news stories using machine learning, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. This technology will no doubt find its way into news aggregation services.

Virtual information services

We used to be confined to a room of hardcopy materials, and separated by multiple office locations. Instead we can be more collaborative than ever before. Enterprise social media such as Yammer encourages conversation and document sharing. Interactive training and inductions can be done using telephone and video conferencing.

One of the key trends for 2018 will be virtual or remote information services. This was reflected in the theme for BIALL 2017, which was Together or apart? Effective ways of working.  The sessions explored different working practices and relationships, training techniques, and collaborative working technology solutions. It is now possible for firms to employ on demand library services.

Payment and crypto currencies

This month Bitcoin has reached record highs. It is no surprise to learn that law firms are introducing new payment options to meet the demands of clients that deal with cryptocurrency assets. As always this demonstrates that law firms are eventually willing to adapt to client needs, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place. It is possible that information services may be paying for resources in a different way.

Just like sci-fi script writing, technology trend spotting is never an exact science. The above are occurring against an uncertain political and economic climate, both abroad and at home. Whatever happens over the next 12 months will no doubt surprise, delight, and alarm in equal measure. It is the legal information professional’s responsibility to stay aware of developments, and keep everyone informed.

I wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous 2018.