Q&A: Eric Dechant, Legal Engineer, Xmentium

BY

Shay Namdarian

The way that legal services are delivered is fast changing due to advances in technology and business model innovation. This is resulting in a gradual shift towards affordable, standardised services and efficiencies in how law firms deliver services. We interviewed thought leaders on the changing legal industry, emerging technologies impacting the sector, factors holding law firms back and what the future lawyer looks like.

Here is our interview with the Legal Engineer of Xmentium, Eric Dechant.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IN 5 YEARS?

In 2026 there will likely be more states that follow Utah and Arizona in allowing more diverse ownership and management of law firms. Along the way, there may be some accusations of law practice without a license, but overall the trends will point towards more efficient delivery of legal services.

The top echelon of law firms and the legal departments of the big 4 accounting firms will grow in size and revenue while buying and developing software and automation capabilities. Some firms will sell automated, low-touch legal services to a wider audience, some firms will keep their efficiencies in-house for their own benefit. I expect much duplication of similar platforms as firms have difficulties separating their valuable organizational knowledge from the platforms they build.

The total number of law firms will be lower, and the average number of lawyers per firm will increase. I expect this industry consolidation to mirror that of both the pre-WW II American automotive industry and farming/agribusiness.


WHICH EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ARE YOU MOST EXCITED BY AND WHY?

What most excites me right now is the emergence of no-code/low code process automation and AI/ML-leveraging software platforms. The legal tech industry has progressed and we can start to apply what we're learning to powerful and reliable Expert Knowledge Tools (EKTs) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

We're moving past the initial excitement of "brute force" AI (throw enough data at the algorithm and it will magically work) and maturing into platforms that can look at both past activity via document analysis and also process monitoring where the machines watch how professionals work and discern business intelligence from the observations.


WHAT IS CURRENTLY HOLDING LAW FIRMS BACK FROM INNOVATING?

1. A flat hierarchy of management where groups of partners must agree on a course of action that likely increases risk and decreases this year's per-partner revenue.

2. A lack of success metrics that make comparisons difficult between old and new methods.

3. The long-term drift of law school curriculums away from practice knowledge and towards philosophy and law in the abstract.

4. Lack of diversity in both the law firms currently and the law schools that feed them.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LAWYER LOOK LIKE?

In an ideal world? We move away from the single-accreditation model of American lawyers and towards that of modern medicine (with M.D.s, P.A.s, registered nurses, etc.) and European law practice, with bachelor's degrees in law, along with accreditation as "Barristers" or "Solicitors", along with Legal Engineers.

Future lawyers should have training in project management, risk assessment, business, data analytics, design thinking and technological implementation. Simply put, the vast majority of J.D. programs in the U.S. do not teach future lawyers what they need to know, and students from lower-ranked law schools will encounter increasing difficulty securing gainful employment.

To find out what 14 other thought leaders had to say on the future of legal services, download the full 21st Century Lawyer report at www.newlawacademy.com/report

about the author

Shay Namdarian is GM of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus and the author of Stop Talking, Start Making - A Guide to Design Thinking. Shay has over ten years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience and design thinking. He is a regular speaker and facilitator on design thinking and has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture. Shay has supported global organisations to embed customer-centric culture, working closely with law firms such as Clifford Chance, Pinsent Masons and ClaytonUtz

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