Mark Cohen: Legal Insights and Industry Commentary

#FearlessLaw is our series of interviews featuring innovators and great minds in legal tech


Who are you and what is your role?

Mark A. Cohen. My role is to remain relevant and, perhaps, to share some things I have learned along the way as well as to evolve through interaction with others. I do this through writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, and communicating with inquisitive people around the world. My most important role is as a father, husband, friend, and human being.

What do you think will be the single most defining technical or operational feature of the next 1-5 years in law?

Technology will recast the delivery of legal services by connecting consumers directly with providers. There will be a legal marketplace—along the lines of Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and a host of other delivery models that have accomplished this in other verticals.

And then, same question – but over the next decade?

See prior answer, then multiply the effect.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is touted as a game-changer for law. What do you think?

It depends how you define “game-changer.” It will have an impact, surely, as will technology more broadly. How IT is deployed—not IT itself—is the larger issue.

Cybersecurity is often quoted as being both the next greatest risk and also the greatest revenue opportunity for legal services providers. What are your thoughts?

Cybersecurity certainly poses a challenge to legal consumers and providers, just as it does to everyone in the digital age. Law firms and in-house departments—especially those in companies that have lots of IP or do large M&A or Government work—are prime targets. We have already seen that. That risk won’t diminish. As to revenue opportunities, sure, there will be a spate of litigation on the issue of due care in maintaining digitally stored information. That’s a nascent area whose standards are far from clearly defined and subject to constant change due to the warp-speed of IT advances. Lawyers have historically been good at making money from risk and vague standards.

Is Automation a “silver bullet” for law – or is law more complicated than other sectors?

Automation is antithetical to what lawyers should do— exercise professional judgment and advocacy skills on behalf of a client. But few lawyers—especially in large firms—do that. Many tasks once performed by lawyers could/should certainly be automated. But even when they are, that will hardly put lawyers out of business. And no, law is not more complicated than other sectors. How many lawyers were pre-med or took engineering classes? Law is not so complicated. Being a good lawyer, however, is a different story.

There is much more data available for both lawyers and their clients? Is more better – or just more?

Data is data—its relevance depends upon what one is looking for. There is nothing intrinsically valuable about data; it is a contextual exercise—like “metrics.” Some metrics have great value and others are irrelevant to the consideration.

There’s a growing trend toward litigation funding and other forms of legal financing. What are your thoughts on that?

I spent my first career as a civil trial lawyer, so I have a strong point of view on this. I think it’s generally positive because it promotes a more business-like approach to litigation. Funders won’t be in business long if they back baseless claims. Ideally, funding provides more flexibility for those who believe in a case. We would not have quite the same need for litigation funding were our US regulations governing the practice of law not quite so archaic. I have not seen the numbers, but I don’t think litigation funding is as big in ABS countries (UK, Australia, etc.) as here in the US. I’m in favor of litigation funding but note that the Peter Thiel/Hulk Hogan case suggests it should have some oversight and boundaries.

We see more pricing data and a push for greater transparency in legal procurement. What do you see as the implications of this?

It’s long overdue. I’m for a legal marketplace where all that is out in the open.

Last question: what’s the one shift or change you think will catch the industry un-prepared in the next decade – whether good, bad or downright ugly?

Big business will step into the legal field (think: medicine morphing into the “healthcare industry.”) Legal delivery is fragmented, archaic, and far too expensive –both in the corporate and retail market segments. And law is a HUGE industry—some peg it at $1 trillion per year globally. Business will co-opt legal delivery and lawyers will become employees for businesses, not firms.