Updated: Nov 16, 2020
‘Legal tech’ is a term commonly thrown around within the legal industry. However, it is important to understand what it is, its growth, and the implication’s it will have for future and current lawyers. Legal tech refers to the use of software and technology as a way of providing efficient legal services. It provides new ways to complete more tedious tasks through technology, allowing lawyers to concentrate on the more complex legal tasks. Meaning, lawyers can provide maximum efficiency for their clients at cheaper rates. Despite several types of legal tech, there are two main types of technology dominating the sector; Artificial intelligence (AI) and Blockchain.
AI has many incorrect connotations which are important to disregard. It is more than just developing robots. AI is all around us, for example, plagiarism checkers, spam filters and even lenses on Snapchat are powered through various types of AI. In businesses it can be used as a personal assistant or a research assistant, saving time and money. This is because it can look for patterns in data, test data and provide accurate results.
Blockchain is essentially a hack-proof way to store and sign legal agreements. Blockchain technology claims to make the legal sector more transparent, by simplifying transactions and leaving no room for misrepresentation. Additionally, all lawyers can understand what a smart contract represents and what they’re entering into, keeping records of all its history and changes. It can reduce costs by decreasing the amount of time used to complete various tasks(for example electronic signatures takes less time than physical signatures) and creates more time to focus on accelerating legal proceedings while decreasing client costs. Being hack-proof is a desirable trait, as keeping information confidential is important, especially within the legal field. Therefore Blockchain is considered a better alternative.
Legal technology can be traced back to 1973 through the creation of introductory software which allowed lawyers to search for cases online rather than manually through books. Despite these developments, legal technology gained prominence in 2011 through the creation of technology start-ups. These start-ups gave people access to software which would sometimes eliminate or reduce the amount of money and time needed for a lawyer. It also created a marketplace to successfully match clients and lawyers through websites. Since 2011 legal tech has grown globally as a topic of interest, with major firms such as Clifford Chance, Allen and Ovary and more heavily investing in it. By investing in new, innovate legal technology, firms can assure their clients have the most efficient and safe services.
Implications for future lawyers.
The legal sector overall has a very divided opinion on the impacts of legal technology. Many believe firms who have not adopted forms of legal technology will fall behind and those who are up to date will thrive. Many firms are realising the great benefits of using technologies such as AI. However, using AI means many legal jobs become automated, in an already highly competitive sector. Although this may be worrying for many law graduates, although technology may disrupt jobs, it will create new roles in assessing and developing new technology, as well as allow lawyers to provide better services for clients.