It is one thing to applaud the investment in innovative technology, it is another to embrace it. This misguided stagnation is prolific within the legal sector. We are witnessing disruptive digitalisation within the sectors of industry. The unfortunate circumstances of Covid-19 have propelled the augmentation of applied tech. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, when announcing the quarterly earnings report, revealed that within the space of 2 months there had been 2 years’ worth of digitalisation. Unlike finance, retail and healthcare, the legal sector has traditionally been resilient in the face of adversity. This resilience has enabled it to bear a series of crises, such as the dot com crash, 2007 financial crash and coronavirus, without more than a minor graze. By contrast, the banking sector was hit hard resulting in the need for developed technology to make business more secure and transparent, both in-house and for its clients.
There is every reason to ‘go digital.’ Legal, as its own entity, can no longer function independently. When acting autonomously, the sector remains sluggish. The digital driving force should not rest solely with its establishment, but in unison with digital professionals, through healthy professional collaboration. The product of this relationship is a new ‘multi-disciplinary lawyer’, possessing the computing intellect of a software programmer, with as competent an understanding of the law as any practising solicitor. Combining these traits will reinvent the legal sector and encourage its emergence and growth in conjunction with the other facets of business.
Overcoming the fear
A digital transition can be daunting. Technology has facilitated the labour market in obtaining the same level of output whilst reducing itslevel of resources. Less work usually means less jobs. Robotics within the manufacturing industry will replace 20 million jobs in the next ten years. The legal sector should not be afraid of redundancy under these circumstances. Digital tools are unable to replace the work of lawyers. The legal sector requires judgment derived from moral and ethical understanding. This element makes us human and can only be artificially manufactured within technology. The existence of legal tech is not to overthrow the industry, but to facilitate the profession. Lawyers do not earn their reputation through their skill of organisation and book-keeping. Respect is earned through interpreting, challenging, and developing the intricate complexities of the law. Legal tools enable lawyers to spend more time understanding documents and less time trying to decipher them. AI tools have the capacity to autonomously collate documentation and electronically organise discoveries. Its application can be used to enhance client interaction through chat bots that help improve the efficacy of communication between legal professionals and their clients.
A promising future
Sustaining a dynamic environment for legal tech to grow within industry shall facilitate the future evolution of legal practice. In the workplace, there is increasing evidence of cohabitation between traditional legal professionals and multi-disciplinarians, such as data analysts and software specialists. This progression makes legal data as important to understand as legal terms. Legal tech enhances productivity and entrenches interpersonal relationships with tech savvy clients. As this tech develops and becomes more efficient, it will become more user-friendly, allowing for more effective communication. The development of online contracts shortens the length of their legal process. Automation is migrating towards machine learning, prediction and even negotiation. The disruption that currently challenges the legal industry must be adopted, embraced and nurtured. Disruption brings progression, not regression, and once this is understood, the legal industry shall assume its hierarchy as one of the key driving forces to profit within the tech eco-system.
By Robbie Sinclair
Student on the MSc/LLM Corporate Law, Computing and Innovation