Shaping law for the future: The changing interface between tech and the law
Shaping law for the future: The changing interface between tech and the law

There has been a lot made of the unwillingness of lawyers to adopt technology for routine functions. This year has been different in that sense as technology is making a headway in the legal services delivery system.

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The present pandemic has necessitated lawyers to collaborate efficiently on work, stay connected, and scale up operations. In all certainty, one cannot dispute that the smartest, agile, and innovative enterprises will be the people-led, technology-driven, and process-managed organization discipline.
In the discussion we examine how much technology penetration has taken place thus far and its ability to shape up legal practice for the future. We draw upon examples from across the globe to justify that technology has indeed brought in radical changes to the functioning of an organization, while also justify its ROIs. We argue that legal technology, when used generously, can change the justice delivery system and change the course of law in the future.

From back-office to the front office

Until two decades ago, technology was a far-cry for lawyers. In his book The Future of Law, published in 1996, Richard Susskind predicted that conversations between lawyers and clients in the future would be via Email. While it is believed that his statement was not largely accepted within the legal community, the early 2000s actually saw this happening. Emails was the most opted-for means of communication, and legal research tools and accounting platforms saw the light of the day.

Technology also took over some of the back-office functions like document research and analysis, budgeting.

The past decade has been significant for lawyers in using technology for innovation, process integration, and transformation of legal services' overall delivery. With systems designed to predict the case's outcome, predictive analytics and machine learning can take over some of the tasks exclusive and preserve for lawyers.

What will shape up the new age lawyers would be their ability to develop systems for solving problems lawyers seek and, who in the words of Richard Susskind, are better risk managers, experts in design thinking, individuals working on developing a way of tackling new problems.

Catalysts of change

To understand on how technology can foster change and shape up the future practice for lawyers in various fields of legal practice:

Contracts and negotiations:

With the wide use and application of blockchain technology, law firms can position themselves for guidance, support, and quick turnaround time to generate contracts. the self-executing mode of contracts will enable quick review, execution, and cutting down intermediary processes, giving end-to-end contracts a better meaning and application.

Land registry and management of deeds:

In countries where tracking of land deeds is still a challenge, the evolution of technology can enable verification of records, access and control of information between government and landowners better.

Intellectual Property Rights:

From the initial search, documentation to the filing, follow up on the status, application of technology is all the more relevant here to this area that enables access of information on a global scale.

Litigation management:

With complete automation of end-to-end processes, lawyers' work can significantly reduce with apt technology automation. No more of siloed information, documentation or difficulty in access to information. Technology can enable efficient streamlining of processes, access to internal information, and collaboration with external lawyers significantly.

People-led transformation in building a process-led enterprise?

In a recently conducted poll by The Legal Technologist, 93% of the respondents agree that the legal sector will head for a radical change. With the growing body of clients who wish to get low-cost service, access to the legal system is foremost. With only an estimated 46% of the people having access to the legal system (which, not to be forgotten, is accentuated by delayed justice, significant backlogs), it is unimaginable to combat these issues without intervention technology.

A report published by the ABA, 35 firms out of Am Law 100, have business units focused on alternative delivery of legal services. Automated contracts have become a critical organizational function, while artificial lawyers, robolawyers, are likely to assist in the future ably. Gartner predicts that by 2023, "Lawbots" or virtual legal assistants will handle a quarter of the internal legal requests and increase responsiveness and efficiency. Legal chatbots, virtual assistants may seem hype for the time being and demonstrate value and bring about efficiency to customers/clients and the overall system.