ODE TO LEGAL TECH
December 2020 / Reading Time: 4 minutes
The way legal professionals work was irreversibly changed in recent years by technology. Using the power of legal tech, we are now able to do our work basically from anywhere in the world. Adding to that, with the help of our powerful smartphones we now stay connected with our work for a longer period of time than before the tech boom era. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just that it happens. A lot, all the time, working days and weekends. To all of us, lawyers, entrepreneurs, employees, makes no difference really. We are all constantly checking our email on our mobiles in the hunt for “that” new notification that will make our day. In this new spectrum, no one was surprised when the legal vendors adapted their products so they can be used on all types of devices, platforms or operating systems. Likewise, no one is surprised today when they hear that some new legal tech business is flying high.
During the past couple of years we have become accustomed with innovation and disruption in this field. Somehow, it has become the norm and not the exception, with dozens of tools battling everyday to enhance a fresh industry. Nowadays, whenever we scroll our social feeds we learn about a new legal tech business and it’s quite difficult to keep up with all of them. Of course, not all are “disruptive” or “highly innovative”, actually many of them are just copying each other, changing a comma or a dash here and there. Yet, there are still lots of legal tech new businesses that are really useful, both to the legal practitioners and to their clients. Many of us hate the expression “time is money” but, since lawyers are mainly using an hourly fee, a good legal tech can save a lot of time for lawyers and, consequently, a lot of money for their clients. Sure, there’s also the possibility to fully know upfront a lawyer’s fees no matter the legal request you may have, but this kind of approach is not widely spread just yet.
It’s undeniable that technology expanded the market of legal services way more than it was a decade ago, widening the possibility for everyone to have access to legal aid, in one form or another. These days, most of the legal tech options already incorporate tools like automation, artificial intelligence or cloud computing, making legal practices accessible to almost anyone from all over the world. As for the legal professionals, the benefits are visible, having now access to extraordinary powerful tools that can be used to operate globally, perform refined research, collaborate with fellow professionals or attract new clients. Not to mention that many law firms managed to survive this tough and uncertain year, reducing the use of their physical offices and making use instead of their virtual ones. Of course, using these benefits makes data security awareness to be even more important, to the same extent for the providers and for the users of the legal tech tools.
The legal tech industry grew a lot and it’s evolving as we speak. Last year the total investment in this area was just shy of one billion euro. As expected, this year it broke this threshold and the year is not over yet. Many legal tech startups entered the market in the last two or three years, covering all sorts of domains like AI legal tech software, Contract management, Legal research or Legal compliance. With them, the adoption of legal tech solutions increased significantly in many key legal areas, as it can be seen in detail in the 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report prepared by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC).
In Europe, the UK remained at the top of the legal tech development, incorporating almost half of the startups. With the Brexit effects knocking on the door, probably in 2021 other European countries like Germany or even the opportunistic Baltic duo Estonia and Lithuania, will rise to threaten the UK’s supremacy. No matter their origin country, all the present and future legal tech businesses will bring their contribution to the evolution of the legal system and, thus, to the one of the society.
Sure, there will always be lawyers that will tell you that no computer will be able to replace them. And they’re probably right, at least if we consider our life expectancy as a time frame. Nevertheless, this does not mean that these lawyers have the option to ignore the legal tech benefits if they want to remain anchored in the present field of law. In my opinion, to be competent in technology is a paramount skill to have for a lawyer nowadays. The American Bar Association first acknowledged this thing back in 2012 when it decided to amend their lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, stating that a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. Well said, isn’t it?
Technology has always set the tone for change and I am glad that now legal tech has taken the spotlight. We will all surely enjoy the fruits of the incredible innovations that will emerge from this. Given that the legal tech industry has not yet discovered the full potential of the blockchain or artificial intelligence mechanisms, as a lawyer and tech enthusiast I can’t wait to see the direction in which mankind will evolve next.
Thank you for your time!