If you’ve spent any length of time in the legal industry, you’ve heard partners and marketing managers joke about how law firms are notoriously slow to adopt new technology. Perhaps that’s because law firms always handle the first wave of backlash against the hottest new tech (from intellectual property litigation to personal injury considerations) and are therefore more knowledgeable the flaws; more likely, the latent adoption of new technology comes from a mindset rooted in tradition and a schedule that is often too busy.
Regardless, 5G technology will aid law firms’ daily workflow, allow them to process vast amounts of new data rapidly, and send a high volume of new cases their way.
5G technology explained
5G, the fifth generation of cellular technology, offers significantly faster download speeds via radio waves operating at a much higher frequency than their predecessors. 5G may offer an alternative to cable and satellite internet because of its speed capabilities, and it will usher in a new generation of cellphones and devices since it can only be supported on 5G enabled devices. Perhaps the largest drawback to 5G is that the cell companies will need to implement additional antennas every 250 meters or so, and the public backlash against constant exposure to these new millimeter waves has already been intense.
Either way, 5G will become the standard, and 5G networks have already been rolled out across the United States. It’s only a matter of time before it is the new normal.
How will 5G impact the legal profession?
5G will affect the legal industry significantly, and much of the change will be passive; partners at firms won’t always have to make concentrated decisions in order to reap the benefits of 5G technology. However, 5G capabilities can and should influence the decision-making at firms around the country in many ways, including the following.
5G technology will aid discovery and due diligence
Part of a lawyer’s work is to access troves of data from clients during the discovery stage of a case, and how much data lawyers can analyze is often limited by how powerful their technology is. There’s also the matter of doing discovery and due diligence while on the go – some of this work is done in the field, and 5G-enabled devices with incredibly fast download speeds will make it possible for lawyers to be more mobile, thereby helping them perform analytical tasks at a client’s location.
“The ability to analyze infinitely more data during discovery than before will be helpful at least, and transformational at most,” says Brian Schwechter, a Boca Raton personal injury lawyer and founder of the Schwechter Law Group. “I plan to get 5G-enabled devices as soon as possible, and privacy considerations aside, I’m excited about what 5G can do for my firm.”
In-house counsels will have more firepower
“Difficult in-house data projects have often been outsourced to law firms with specific capabilities,” reveals Paul Young, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney. “5G may render some of these services obsolete, and in-house counsels will be able to analyze their own data in a more efficient manner. Hopefully, this won’t hurt law firms too much, but if I were to rely on such services for a significant portion of my revenue, I would start pivoting now.”
In short, 5G will level the playing field; everyone will have the same access to certain data-processing capabilities, and law firms using that as a competitive edge may start to fall behind.
The inevitable wave of post-5G litigation
New technology brings growing pains, and law firms are always on the front lines. These growing pains will likely fall into two categories: intellectual property (IP) litigation and data privacy litigation.
Careless business owners seeking to capitalize on their new troves of data will abuse that information; we will probably see a flood of cases stemming from huge data dumps being carelessly stored in the cloud and hacked or otherwise exposed. This is nothing new, of course, but given the above point – that high-powered data processing is now available to everyone – there will be more incidents in the near future.
The actionable takeaway is this: firms need to start familiarizing themselves with 5G’s capabilities and dangers, publishing content around the subject, and positioning themselves as thought leaders on the topic. When the wave of lawsuits comes, they will be ready to take on cases.
And regarding IP law, the secondary cellphone market will be a goldmine of IP theft cases. Everyone is rushing to be 5G-compatible, and as a result, phone manufacturers, laptop companies, and IoT providers will be tempted to use stolen intellectual property.
How 5G will play out and how it will affect the legal industry remains to be seen, but we know that the world won’t be the same after it has been widely adopted.
For more advice for legal and other professional services firms, download the SAP-sponsored IDC InfoBrief, “Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed.”