LAW VS TECHNOLOGY: A love-hate relationship
Lets talk LAW + TECH
Law is an ancient concept as old as life. It is/has always been a way of existence, a juxtaposition of morals and rules, democracy and autocracy. There are different definitions of the concept ‘law’ but the most acceptable definitions:
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (9th ED):
“Law is the whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey.”
“Law is a binding custom or practice of community. A rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognised as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.”
Professor John W. Salmons (1862-1924):
“The body of principles recognised and applied by the state in the administration of justice.”
Law as a social and political construct has evolved over time and will forever evolve. (talk about evolution of law). However, our lens is fixated on the profession of law and its lethargic reaction to change, revolution and automation. The legal profession has remained the same through major revolutionary eras from the industrial revolution to Information/Technology era.
The introduction of the internet is a major shift from the industrial revolution of coal and gas. Information and Technology has opened doors to different possibilities and with the emergence of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis, the legal profession will experience growth.
“Technology is the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.”
“Technology is the use of scientific knowledge or processes in business, industry, manufacturing.”
In the last decade, the adoption of digital technologies in the legal sector has increased significantly, despite its conservative approach and low tendency for reinvention and change. The UK market has a reactive mindset to change, especially in the legal sector because the UK legal system has been shaped by customs and traditions. However, the COVID 19 challenges proves that the system is not immune to change, and the legal business is evidently open to emerging technologies to put them at a competitive advantage. The “Awakening era” as I would call it has acted as a major catalyst for change in many sectors.
The primary barriers to the adoption of Law-Tech are fundamental to the industry (Law Society, 2020). These are: (i) Partnership Model (ii) Billable hours model (iii) Risk relating to compliance; and (iv) Varying levels of awareness and confidence.
In addition, most digital technology focus on automation, leaving a gap for digital transformation of traditional legal practice processes.
These sets the areas for innovation.
(i) Business Model Innovation - a technology business model that aligns with the legal sector commercial models (i.e. Partnership and billable hour models)
(ii) Sale Innovation – an innovative approach to increase adoption of Law-Tech
(iii) Technology Innovation - The application of Artificial Intelligence that focuses on the facts of a case, highlight the legal issues in that case, locate relevant primary and secondary sources; current affairs, legal documents and forms required for the case and provide an advice summary for clients. According to Casadesus-Masanell and Zhu, 2013, 464, technology entails ‘the search for new logics of the firm’ which redefines how value is created, captured and delivered.
LAW + TECH
Law and Technology are two opposing concepts that require an important binding agent to thrive “Trust”. When Law trusts technology it enables efficiency, transparency, simplifies workflow, reduces case turnaround times, improve the quality of outcomes, reduces operational costs and most especially fosters innovation within the legal industry.
I draw on my personal experience as a law graduate and those of my colleagues. I have conducted informal interviews with law graduates, law lecturers and some practicing lawyers on the challenges of legal research and the possible efficiencies digital technologies can bring to it.
The findings are compared to those of a 2019 study American Bar Association:
i. 41% of lawyers indicated that AI-powered solutions would be most useful for increasing efficiency
ii. 24% who felt they would be most helpful with document management and review
iii. 21% AI-aided research will reduce costs and was cited as the most useful attribute of legal technology.
In addition, About 92% of the law firms are planning to increase their adoption of AI for analytics in the next 12 months (LexisNexis, 2020 Legal Analytics Study). This is majorly driven by competitive pressures such as the need to excel in the business (57%), and client expectations (56%) ( Mordor Intelligence.com).