Top 5 legal technology news stories of 2021

In many methods, 2021 felt like the year that would in no way conclude. The pandemic dragged on, and new variants popped up like whack-a-moles. The ensuing instability resulted in an increased reliance on distant performing software program, as lawyers put into place know-how that supplied the adaptability that their corporations desired to changeover to a dispersed workforce should really the have to have occur.

As a end result of the technology adoption, some organizations, which include legislation firms, experienced substantial gains, together with amplified effectiveness and profitability. But the swift shift to remote work also exposed vulnerabilities in some small business IT programs. The resulting barrage of cyberattacks and laptop or computer community infiltrations built headlines throughout the year.

Also, the enhanced adoption of distant doing the job resources had the conclude outcome of contributing to a notably fast paced yr for legal tech-sector investments. There was an influx of undertaking capital and personal fairness funding all through the year, alongside with a amount of file-placing first community offerings and lots of notable mergers and acquisitions.

The distant performing trend also impacted legislation organization recruitment. Some legislation firms ended up a lot less than accommodating when it arrived to the flexible function arrangement requests from their employees, which includes regulation company associates, who had grow to be accustomed to distant do the job. As a end result, some staff chose to pursue other work options, which brought on a labor shortage at the associate level in regulation firms.

In other terms, if very little else, 2021 was an eventful calendar year. Figuring out the top rated 5 lawful engineering information stories of the calendar year was not easy, but the common thread of distant work and its consequences filtered by the newsworthy merchandise that made the listing.

1. The remote function revolution

Considering that the begin of the pandemic, we have cautiously emerged from our residences right after each individual surge abated, hopeful that the pandemic was finally nearing its conclude. But alas, we’ve been completely wrong every single and each and every time, and any return to normalcy has been postponed right until some afterwards issue in time.

Each time we went via that system, it became significantly obvious to law organization leaders that this was a very long-time period scenario that known as for long-phrase methods. The jury-rigged IT methods that law firms had in put that permitted workforce to remotely accessibility their legislation firms’ premises-based programs weren’t likely to cut it. Not only did that form of IT setup raise vulnerability to cyberattacks (see underneath), it also considerably lowered productivity and efficiency when firm staff worked remotely.

For people factors, all over 2021, law companies continued to strategically devote in cloud-based mostly program that streamlined remote operate processes. So much so that according to the outcomes of a survey conducted in August and September by MyCase, Authorized Marketplace Report 2021: Classes Figured out from the Pandemic, 88% of legal professionals surveyed claimed that their companies used cloud-centered computing, up from 76% ahead of the pandemic. Furthermore, 46% noted that their firms had invested in distant working software program as a immediate outcome of the pandemic.

2. Cybersecurity dangers on the increase

Notably, a single of the driving variables at the rear of the uptick in cloud computing computer software usage was cybersecurity. Organizations, such as law corporations, that were getting a Band-Assist strategy to remote do the job were being progressively facing cyberattacks from their firm’s on-premises hardware. All through these attacks, undesirable actors set up ransomware on the firm’s desktops or premises-primarily based servers and then held the firm’s data hostage till a ransom was compensated.

For example, in July, Campbell Conroy & O’Neil, a company that handles issues for large firms, like Ford, Boeing, Exxon, Marriott and Walgreens declared that it experienced been a victim of a ransomware attack that potentially uncovered Social Security numbers, passport figures, payment card information, health care details and biometric knowledge.

However, law corporations relying on cloud-centered application had been usually spared from the menace of ransomware. For all those companies, any agency information that was stored or backed up in the cloud usually was immune from the cyberattack. Cloud-based storage made available defense and presented legislation firms with an economical alternative to premises-dependent computing. Even far better, an added advantage of the cloud computer software made use of by these firms is the built-in company resiliency offered, considering the fact that cloud-based mostly software package is obtainable 24/7 from any area, making it easy for organization workforce to collaborate and get function done—no subject exactly where they take place to be.

3. The ‘great resignation’

Of study course, the thriving changeover to remote get the job done though a boon for authorized specialists was a double-edged sword for legal companies. The ease and overall flexibility provided by distant function induced legislation company staff members to reexamine their priorities, with quite a few demanding far more versatile function arrangements on their return to the office environment.

Authorized professionals who had come to be accustomed to working from dwelling were disillusioned with the thought of returning to the workplace on a total-time basis. Legislation organization leaders, nevertheless, experienced diverse anticipations, and several insisted that experience time reigned supreme. As a outcome, quite a few lawful experts joined the “great resignation,” resulting in a dearth of authorized talent at the affiliate degree in the deal with of growing desire for lawful services, driven in part by the boom in M&A transactions taking place throughout all enterprises.

4. Funding, M&As and lawful tech consolidation

Talking of M&As, the authorized know-how area was not immune from the quick uptick in action. The large selection of mergers, acquisitions and funding rounds in the legal technological know-how space that began in 2020 ongoing in 2021 and accelerated as the 12 months went on. The drumbeat of PR bulletins has not often ceased, and it was sometimes difficult to keep up with the dizzying number of transactions occurring. By just one estimate, as of September, $1 billion was elevated, compared to $510 million invested in 2020 and the past all-time significant in 2019, when $989 million was invested.

A hotly debated subject matter encompassing the improve in action was whether it was prompted by the pandemic or was merely a predictable and purely natural acceleration that would have took place no matter. Either way, it is indeniable that a report-breaking amount of money of funds flowed into the lawful technological innovation room in 2021.

There had been also a significant amount of acquisitions, resulting in the unprecedented consolidation of legal engineering providers. What follows are the additional notable illustrations, although there ended up numerous other folks that are not detailed beneath.

5. Preliminary community offerings

Just as notable as the funding round and acquisitions were being the to start with-at any time U.S. original general public choices in the legal engineering room. All three happened in excess of the summer months, and each individual company under represented unique areas of the lawful technological know-how arena: on the internet authorized solutions, business enterprise program for greater regulation corporations and e-discovery software package.

Of course, IPOs really don’t automatically lead to untold small business accomplishment, as evidenced by the shenanigans occurring down less than on the heels of the botched Nuix IPO from very last December. Pretty much right away following the IPO happened, the difficulty commenced for Australian-based Nuix, a perfectly-recognized e-discovery software organization.

Investigations centered close to insider buying and selling were introduced in a make a difference of months. At this time, Nuix is also experiencing at minimum two course motion lawsuits introduced on behalf of shareholders. Earlier this calendar year, the CEO and the chief economical officer stepped down, and the long run remains unclear just one particular yr right after the first IPO.

No issue how you slice or dice it, 2021 was a year to be remembered. The instability of the pandemic had the stunning end result of fueling a tumultuous, unpredictable and investment-heavy 12 months in the lawful technology sector. With one more COVID-19 variant producing its way across the United States and the legal engineering house demonstrating no symptoms of slowing down, who understands what will come up coming? A person issue that is particular is that it’s sure to be appealing.


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based mostly attorney, writer and journalist, and she is the authorized engineering evangelist at MyCase, a corporation that features lawful observe management software for little corporations. She is the nationally identified writer of Cloud Computing for Attorneys and is co-creator of Social Media for Attorneys: The Next Frontier, equally printed by the American Bar Association. She also is co-creator of Criminal Regulation in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes common columns for ABAJournal.com and Over the Regulation, has authored hundreds of posts for other publications and often speaks at conferences pertaining to the intersection of law and rising technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be arrived at at [email protected].


This column demonstrates the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

Marcy Willis

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