No matter the way you take a look at it, 2020 has been a yr to recollect. It started with the Australian bushfires (keep in mind these?). Then over the span of just some months, Kobe Bryant died in a fiery helicopter crash, President Donald Trump was acquitted of impeachment expenses, and Harvey Weinstein was convicted. Then in March, the impression of COVID-19 set the scene for the remainder of this loopy, unprecedented yr.
Naturally, the authorized know-how house wasn’t immune from the unpredictable nature of 2020. The results of the pandemic had been wide-ranging and felt in all corners of the authorized know-how world. The shift to distant work had a dramatic impact on each the observe of regulation and the enterprise of regulation, ensuing within the fast—and singularly exceptional—adoption of know-how at charges by no means earlier than seen. In some instances, the transition was a clean one, and in others, it was a spectacular catastrophe.
Good or dangerous, the outcomes of the pandemic’s impression had been undoubtedly notable—and newsworthy. So newsworthy, the truth is, I had a troublesome time arising with my high authorized know-how tales of 2020 for this text. So, I crowdsourced it to my social media community, and from these responses, a couple of matters had been advised repeatedly, thus serving to me slender it down to 5 tales. Without additional ado, right here they’re.
The unprecedented transition to distant work
In March, many governors and mayors started requiring the closure of nonessential companies because of the pandemic. For legal professionals throughout the nation who’d lengthy resisted the train of thought of working towards just about, distant work turned an unsettling actuality practically in a single day. And to the nice shock of authorized know-how evangelists like myself, they started to quickly undertake distant working applied sciences into their each day lives at charges by no means earlier than seen.
Seemingly in a single day, the authorized occupation was working towards regulation prefer it was 2030, and legal professionals had been embracing new applied sciences—equivalent to videoconferencing, e-signature, digital notaries and cloud computing distant working instruments—with open arms.
And it wasn’t simply legal professionals. The courtroom system additionally shortly tailored by transitioning to e-filing and digital courtroom appearances. Virtual jury trials and depositions turned commonplace in lots of jurisdictions, and bar association-sponsored CLEs about videoconferencing and distant working sprang up throughout the nation.
Videoconferencing turned the norm
That unparalleled rise in videoconferencing was the subsequent large story. At the beginning of the pandemic, the authorized occupation grappled with the right way to conduct in-person conferences remotely. Videoconferencing solved this downside. Lawyers shortly realized that by benefiting from these readily available and affordable tools, safe and encrypted face-to-face video conferences with shoppers, work colleagues and co-counsel had been attainable.
As a consequence, legal professionals are actually utilizing videoconferencing applied sciences with a frequency that might have been unthinkable in 2019. Videoconferencing turned the brand new regular out of necessity for each conferences and courtroom appearances, as proven by the outcomes from this survey carried out by MyCase within the spring (observe that i’m the authorized know-how evangelist with MyCase).
The use of videoconferencing by the courts was notably notable given the prior resistance of many courtroom directors to the mere suggestion that cameras ought to be permitted within the courtroom, or that courtroom appearances could possibly be carried out just about. The shutdowns and social distancing necessities resulted in a exceptional change of angle; nevertheless, and consequently, courts throughout the nation now use videoconferencing instruments to facilitate and streamline the swift administration of justice. In reality, due to the pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court, even heard oral arguments by telephone for the primary time in historical past.
Another unlucky impact of the pandemic was shouldered by latest regulation college graduates who sat for a bar examination in 2020. Because bar examiners had been wholly unprepared for socially distanced and/or distant testing, test-taking went something however easily. The hashtag #barpocalypse was regularly trending within the authorized Twitterverse, and bar examination shenanigans and failures had been a subject of dialog on blogs and throughout social media.
The points encountered with the digital administration of bar exams ran the gamut from technology failures and the lack of bathroom breaks to allegations of biased facial recognition instruments and data breaches. In-person exams fared no higher, with test-takers alleging that bar examiners failed to offer secure, socially-distanced services for the administration of checks. An controversial consequence of the less-than-ideal testing circumstances had been declining exam passage charges in some states. The bottom-line: No matter how the checks had been administered in 2020, it was a lower than banner yr for the unlucky test-takers.
Legal tech wealth
Another notable pattern in 2020 was the massive variety of mergers, acquisitions and funding rounds within the authorized know-how house. Every month, it appeared not less than one giant merger or acquisition occurred, and funding rounds proliferated. Some advised that the pandemic was the driving power behind most of the occasions; others believed it was a continuation of the general pattern of became greater know-how spending and progress that had been occurring extra globally in recent times.
Whatever the trigger, funding within the authorized know-how house occurred at a gradual clip and began early on within the yr. Here are a number of the extra memorable examples, though there have been many others not listed under:
- • Litera acquired Allegory Law in August, Bestpractix in June, and Levit and James Table of Authority Tool in March
- • Casetext raised $8.2 million in March
- • Everlaw raises $62 million in March
- • Filevine acquired Lead Docket in April
- • LawGeex raised $20 million in May
- • DoNotPay raised $12 million in June
- • InfoTrack acquired majority stake in LawToolContainer in August
- • Rocket Matter was acquired by Lightyear Capital for an undisclosed quantity in September
- • ASG Legal acquired Headnote in September
- • Fastcase acquires Judicata in September
- • Disco raised $60 million in October and one other $40 million in December
- • MyCase was acquired by Apax Partners for $193 million in October
- • Priori Legal raised $6.three million in October
- • Onit acquired McCarthyFinch in November and AXDRAFT in December
- • Exterro acquired Access Data for a “nine-figure” quantity in December
Utah and Arizona permit nonlawyer possession of regulation corporations
Last, however not least, was the continued leisure of ethics guidelines in some jurisdictions referring to nonlawyer possession of regulation corporations, payment sharing with nonlawyers and nonlawyers showing in courtroom. Both occurred in August, when Arizona and Utah relaxed the moral ban on nonlawyer possession. England and Australia already allow nonlawyers to have an possession interest in regulation corporations, however jurisdictions within the United States have been decidedly reluctant to keep track of go well with—that’s, till now.
The Utah Supreme Court unanimously voted to approve a two-year trial interval whereby nonlawyer possession or funding in regulation corporations could be permitted. The courtroom additionally agreed to permit authorized companies suppliers to experiment with new methods of serving shoppers throughout that very same timeframe. Finally, the courtroom amended the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct to incorporate a brand new Rule 5.4A, which allows payment sharing with nonlawyers upon written discover to the shopper.
A few weeks later, the Arizona Supreme Court announced that it could change its ethics guidelines pursuant to a unanimous vote, and that the change could be efficient on Jan. 1, 2021. The courtroom joined the ranks of some different forward-thinking states when it authorized an “alternative business structure” that allowed nonlawyers, outlined as “legal paraprofessionals,” to signify shoppers in courtroom.
All of the tales above signify a marked departure from the established order within the United States and point out that change is afoot within the years to return. Of course, in a yr that was fraught with uncertainty and unmatched challenges, adaptation out of necessity was merely par for the course. 2020 was a yr to be remembered for therefore many causes, not the least of which is the truth that, in opposition to all odds, the authorized occupation rose to the event and started to quickly undertake know-how at charges by no means earlier than seen. What meaning for the long run stays to be seen. But one factor I do know for sure is that we’ll all be more than pleased to place a difficult and extremely eventful 2020 behind us.
ABAJournal.com: “2020 in review: Legal software for working remotely”
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, legal professional, writer, journalist and the authorized know-how evangelist at MyCase, authorized observe administration software program for small corporations. She is the nationally acknowledged writer of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, each revealed by the American Bar Association. She is also co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes common columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record, has authored tons of of articles for different publications, and usually speaks at conferences relating to the intersection of regulation and rising applied sciences. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she might be reached at [email protected].