Legal Technology – Human-Machine Hybridity in Law Firms and the Future for Lawyers

By Jeantelle Churchward


Innovation and technology are disrupting all industries and the legal sector is no exception. The intersection of law and technology has encouraged law firms to embrace new documents and networked communication devices by way of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies. Beyond this, however, new technologies such as algorithmic artificial intelligence and machine learning are directly transforming how lawyers do their work. Today, legal technology is exceeding mere efficiency of mundane tasks and thus emphasises how tomorrow's lawyers will need a new set of skills and ways of working that are fit for the coming age of human-machine hybridity.




THE RISE OF LEGAL TECHNOLOGY

A central debate is whether law firms are making technological revolutions or matching its evolutionary effects. As the rate of technological innovation is significantly faster than the rate of adoption in the legal world, law firms must keep pace or risk getting left behind. Accordingly, the legal technology market accounted for 2.6% of the total legal service market share and arrived at a $1bn investment in 2019. This trend continues in 2020 with the following implemented and emerging legal technologies:


IMPLEMENTED:

  • Document automation (eg.HotDocs)

  • Cloud-based services (eg. HighQ)

  • Time recording and eBilling software (eg. Intapp)

  • Word processing and eDiscovery software (eg. Kira)

  • Practice management and case management software (eg. Clio)


EMERGING:

  • Blockchain

  • Robotic process automation

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms

  • Predictive analytics and data analytics

  • Chatbots and robolawyers

In exploring these trends, it is evident that different legal technologies are at different development stages across different legal market segments. While technology that enhances the efficiency of legal work in business-to-business solutions has more adoption maturity, it still has a long way to go in terms of enhancing the quality of legal services in business-to-consumer solutions. This seems to suggest that the latter rather than the former requires the human attributes that machines are unable to attain.


THE IMPACT ON FUTURE LAWYERS

For that reason, the rise of legal technology plays a significant role in shaping the lawyers of today. As a baseline, lawyers must have business acumen, divergent thinking, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills. Alongside technology, however, future lawyers must ensure that they can develop skills that are transferable to all potential future providers. They must also keep up to date with the latest technology, how it can apply to legal services, and how it will affect them in the legal practice by:

In adopting technological advancements and adapting to a wider set of knowledge sources, lawyers can add more value to the firm through their legal expertise and offer more competitive prices to the clients for their work due to the time made available that technology affords. Therefore, the legal profession must promote a synergetic relationship between traditional legal knowledge, legal technology, and client expectations.


THE KEY TAKE-AWAY

The legal industry will watch the influence of machines and the increase in their capabilities as legal technology usurps legal responsibilities, previously exclusive to lawyers. While it revolutionises the legal profession and model, however, it can never completely replace humans. The law requires a human touch, and technology is considered as a complement to this in working alongside professionals in the field to provide high-quality outcomes by:

  • Accelerating growth by increasing efficiency and productivity, reducing costs, and improving client services.

  • Furthering accessibility by offering more competitive prices.

  • Levelling the playing field by allowing smaller firms to compete with larger organisations.

A common topic during interviews concerns questions on how legal technology is transforming the industry and client delivery such as how is the rise of legal technology impacting law firms? And how can legal technology create a competitive advantage for the firm? Being commercially aware of global technology innovations and its impact, whether it be in law firms, large companies, or tech start-ups, will best prepare for a future legal career in the age of automation.


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