Gartner: Legal tech spending to increase threefold by 2025
Legal departments are expected to increase their technology budgets threefold through 2025, in order to support workflows and meet productivity demands, states Gartner in a new report, titled Predicts 2021: Corporate Legal and Compliance Technology.
While spending on legal technology has been on the up in the last five years, increasing 1.5 times from 2.6% of in-house budgets in 2017 to 3.9% in 2020, Gartner predicts it will increase to around 12% of in-house budgets by 2025, a threefold increase from 2020 levels.
A combination of factors, including those brought on by the pandemic, have increased the urgency for legal departments to embrace technology, with general counsel facing unprecedented pressure both in terms of managing legal workload and driving efficiency in their departments.
While the pandemic has created more work for in-house legal departments at a time when headcounts are likely to remain flat, there is also a long overdue need for legal departments to “modernise, digitise and automate legal work”, says Zack Hutto, director, advisory in the Gartner Legal and Compliance practice.
“Even discounting the new pressures brought about by the pandemic, the trend of increased spending on inside counsel is a tailwind for in-house legal technology spending,” says Hutto. “Many legal leaders won’t have any scope to further increase headcount or outside counsel spending right now, so they are quite likely to look to technology to maximise the productivity of their existing investments in personnel.”
According to Gartner, developing a comprehensive, multi-year technology strategy that can adapt to changes in the corporate environment and advancements in the tech market will be critical to success.
Legal departments to replace 20% of generalist lawyers
In addition to increased spending, Gartner’s report predicts that by 2024, legal departments will replace 20% of generalist lawyers with non-lawyer staff, allowing legal departments to do more with scarce resources. From 2018-2020, the percentage of legal departments with a legal operations manager, responsible for tech staff, grew from 34% of legal departments to 58%.
Simultaneously, some departments at large firms are increasing the percentage of in-house specialist full-time employees, replacing laws firm expertise, firstly to in-source the areas of highest outside counsel spending and secondly, in anticipation of legal and regulatory changes.
“Specialist legal work is typically lower in volume but higher in complexity, it is therefore not the best starting point for standardization and automation.” states Hutto. “The higher-volume, lower-complexity work that is typically carried out by generalist lawyers is where non-lawyer staff will drive efficiency gains for the department, by digitizing key workflows and expanding the use of automation.”
Dr Peng Wei: Designing the Future of Autonomous Aircraft
Air traffic is expected to double by 2037. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world will need 37,000+ new passenger and freight aircraft, and more than half a million new pilots—unless we come up with another solution. Right now, a George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science professor, Dr Peng Wei, is starting to research autonomous electric aircraft design.
NASA will fund the research, which will study how to minimise risks for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). As Airbus states: ‘Autonomous technologies also have the potential to improve air traffic management, enhance sustainability performance and further improve aircraft safety’.
Who is Dr Wei?
An assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr Wei has researched aircraft control, optimisation, and AI and ML applications in aviation. Over the next three years, he’ll lead the US$2.5mn NASA grant project in collaboration with researchers from Vanderbilt, the University of Texas at Austin, and MIT’s Lincoln Lab.
Why is His Research Important?
Even though the wide adoption of self-piloting cars, much less aircraft, is still far down the road, technologies that Dr Wei and his colleagues are researching will form the commercial transport of the future. But aviation manufacturers, in order to produce autonomous aircraft, will have to meet extremely high safety standards.
‘The key challenge for self-piloting capabilities is how the system reacts to unforeseen events’, said Arne Stoschek, Wayfinder Project Executive at Acubed. ‘That’s the big jump from automated to autonomous’. In the air, AI-piloted aircraft will have to manoeuvre around adverse weather conditions, such as wind and storms, and other high-altitude risks, such as GPS hacking, cyberattacks, and aircraft degradation. And the stakes are high.
‘If a machine learning algorithm makes a mistake in Facebook, TikTok, Netflix —that doesn't matter too much because I was just recommended a video or movie I don't like’, Dr Wei said. ‘But if a machine learning algorithm mistake happens in a safety-critical application, such as aviation or in autonomous driving, people may have accidents. There may be fatal results’.
What Are His Other Projects?
In addition to the new NASA research, Dr Wei has been awarded three other grants to pursue AI-piloted aircraft:
- A 2-year grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with West Virginia University and Honeywell Aerospace to investigate “learning-based” aviation systems
- A six-month SBIR Phase I NASA award with Intelligent Automation to mitigate airspace congestion at vertiports—the electric craft version of airports.
- A 1-year collaborative grant with the University of Virginia and George Mason University from the Virginia Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) to develop anti-cyber attack technologies and aviation video systems
Research like NASA and Dr Wei’s three-year programme will help improve how AI reacts and adapts to challenging air conditions. In coming years, autonomous aircraft will likely take off slowly, starting with small package delivery, then upgraded drones, and finally commercialised aircraft. But congestion issues will worsen until autonomous aircraft are the best alternative.
According to BBC Future, by 2030, commuters will spend nearly 100 hours a year in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic jams, and 43 cities will be home to more than 10 million people. The final verdict? Bring on the AI-operated transit.