Online legal industry sees "rapid expansion" worldwide

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The number of new legal services tech patents filed worldwide surged nearly five-fold (484%) over the past five years, according to research by Thomson Reuters. It logged 579 patents in 2016, up from just 99 patents in 2012, using data from The World Intellectual Property Organization.

The spike represents the “rapid expansion” of the online legal industry as well as the rise of alternative legal services such as virtual firms, according to the company. It said firms aim to increase efficiency and implement low-cost operating models in an increasingly competitive market.

“Technological innovation across the financial and professional services industries has grown rapidly over the last few years and the legal sector is investing to stay ahead of the curve,” said Charlotte Rushton, managing director of US large and midsize law firms for Thomson Reuters. “Most major law firms now operate on a global scale, managing deals and litigation across multiple jurisdictions and cross-borders, for which new technology is being specifically developed,” she added.

The US accounted for the highest proportion of patents filed (38%), followed closely by China (34%), and a distant South Korea (15%).

Rushton said stiff competition has stoked firms to adopt new technology, as they seek to streamline processes and reduce operating costs, or outsource work. “Systems such as matter management analytics allow law firms to coordinate live deals and business development programs throughout their global networks,” she said.

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