By Legal Futures’ Associate iManage 
In the legal sector, 2018 saw artificial intelligence (AI) climb to the top of many law firms’ agenda, driven by the lure of the business benefits this new technology potentially offers alongside organisations’ perceived need to ‘innovate’. In 2019, the following trends will shape the adoption of this technology:
- Sharp contraction in point solution buying
The legal sector has been euphoric in its interest in this new technology with many law firms purchasing the technology as another out-of-the-box ‘business tool’. In 2019, there will be a sharp drop in point solution-led tactical buying as law firms better grasp the technology to take a more considered, meaningful and realistic approach to the technology’s adoption. The penny will drop that the perception that AI technology is a ‘plug and play’ is not only misguided, but also futile to achieving innovation-led goals if adopted with this mindset.
- Shift towards strategic adoption of AI
Thus far, the adoption for AI has primarily been driven by tactical, internal gains such as efficiency and cost savings. In 2019, firms will realise the strategic potential of the technology for genuine business advantage such as creating new services and developing new ways of working that are relevant for the consumers of their legal services. To an extent, this outward and proactive approach to the adoption of AI will be urged by customers, akin to the adoption of eDiscovery technology in law firms.
- AI an ‘invisible’ enterprise technology
The realisation that the value of AI lies in embedding the technology in the firm’s ‘business as usual’ processes and activities will take hold. This will require creating a business environment that is conducive to AI, fundamental to which will be digitalisation of information. IT directors will begin to revisit their long-term strategic roadmap to embedded AI into the broader enterprise, including the technology stack and existing legal processes, especially as commoditisation of legal services is rapidly moving up the value chain, examples of which are insurance claims handling and conveyancing.
- Knowledge management without breaching ‘Chinese walls’ and regulation
Compliance with regulations, especially GDPR, is viewed by many law firms today as an obstacle to collaboration and sharing of matter-related information, which often contains confidential personal data. At the same time, typically, there are ‘Chinese walls’ within the organisation that lawyers need to observe to protect confidential matters and limit conflict of interest with other clients. Law firms will realise that AI offers potential for true knowledge management and internal collaboration across teams and geographies, while protecting lawyers from inadvertently breaching the boundaries set by regulation and the Chinese walls.