My first car was a gray Pontiac Sunbird and, being that I was intrigued by manual transmissions, I had to have this feature even though I only knew how to drive an automatic. You may ask, “Why did you buy a new car that you couldn’t even drive?” Well, my rationale was that if the car was purchased, I would have to force myself to learn and face my fear. So, I bought the car and a good friend drove it home for me and, for about a month, I stared out the window trying to get up the nerve to learn how to drive it. One day, after growing tired of catching the bus, I found the nerve to learn and, of course, it wasn’t that bad. I drove that car for 13 years. Although it wasn’t new technology, it was new to me and it was a giant beast I had to conquer.
Overcoming this fear has helped me embrace many technological changes and evolutions over the years. The legal industry is at a pivotal point of technological change itself. It’s staring fearfully out its windows at robotics. Yes, this industry is slow to change but, with a continuing need to reduce costs, improve documents reviews and become more efficient for clients, it’s being forced to assess its practices and the stubborn way it conducts business. Law firms need to face their fears.
Now, I’m not talking gigantic robots running amok like in the “Transformers” movies (I’d be afraid of those, too!). I’m talking about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which is where multi-skilled software robots serve as digital labor in demanding environments. Essentially, RPA is any task that can be automated, allowing humans more time to perform the critical cognitive work. Bottom line: RPA gives legal departments the ability to improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness while reducing operating costs, thus creating exponential gains in productivity.
This trend was cited in an article published in The American Lawyer titled “The Legal Industry Is Undergoing More Than a Dance Around Change” by Mark A. Cohen. It noted how “Legal operations teams are reinventing the way technology and process can be leveraged to streamline the delivery of legal services. Law firms had an opportunity to corner this market but elected to persist with a ‘brute force’ approach that deploys high-priced labor to do ‘the best job possible’ no matter its value rather than to deploy technology and process to streamline delivery … Big Law’s double-down on its labor-intensive approach is a gamble that paid off in the short-run but will prove disastrous in the longer term.”
To help law firms avoid a disastrous ending, Konica Minolta has been introducing a series of informative Artificial Intelligence (AI) webinars, partnership with Precision Discovery, and the non-data Double 2 telepresence robot, which gives lawyers a presence in off-site meetings without losing productivity time due to travel. When clients and prospects open their doors to such products, they clearly see the real value that these digital helpers bring to boost their efficiency, productivity and bottom line. How so? Lawyers today deal with terabytes of data and hundreds of thousands of documents. eDiscovery, legal research and document review are more sophisticated due to this abundance of data, so robotic assistants are proving to be game-changers in any industry that is inundated with data in all forms.
There are companies who can feel the quiet before the storm. They are smart enough to head into the dark clouds with a plan of action and find themselves on the other end staring at a rainbow of economic stability. Then there are companies who have infamously become textbook examples of what not to do when change is near. These organizations should have embraced change or partnered with consultants or industry leaders who could have helped them pave their way.
For example, during the first Industrial Revolution, this period was harnessed by mechanical equipment, water and steam engines. During the second Industrial Revolution, it was electrical and mass production and, the third Industrial Revolution used the tools from the second revolution to harness the power of information technology, robots and automation. Companies who were not able to embrace change during the various Industrial Revolutions or who did not keep up with the technological trends of its time found themselves devising an exit strategy from their industry. Now, the fourth and current revolution will bring changes like we have never seen before, such as genetics, 3D biotechnology, nanotechnology, internet of things and quantum computers.
Each generation who witnessed the various industrial revolutions had the same thought: “What is this going to do to the job market and how will this change my life?” I hope that the legal industry is gearing up for the new changes because, like a runaway train, it’s coming whether we like it or not. Konica Minolta is easing this transition for law firms by providing technology solutions, and I truly believe that, just as I found peace in the driver’s seat of my beloved Pontiac Sunbird, legal departments will realize that the road to robotics isn’t all that bad.