A conservative profession
The legal profession-the phrase, “legal industry” is rapidly gaining common usage- is quite known for being fundamentally conservative.
Therefore, while the world found itself in an incredibly fast-paced, constantly evolving technological revolution, it appeared for some time that this conservative profession would remain immune to the change.
Wikipedia notes that “in 50 years, the customer experience at most law firms has barely changed”.
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE?
The arguments or analysis, posit that the lawyers’ work is too complex for even the most sophisticated machines to process or execute without human intervention. Every case is different and thus each case can only be analyzed based on its peculiarities and circumstances. The general belief is thus that legal services will always need human intervention, and as each case is totally different from the other, a case-by-case approach is imperative, to deliver results that cannot be replaced by automated input and output.
However, the reality appears different from the above near delusional thinking.
The reality is that the technological revolution will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate with one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.
There are real, unlimited possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge; these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.
Technology has already occasioned major transformation and disruptions in the areas of finance-FINTECH (Understanding Financial Technologies ) and Insurance-INSURTECH just to mention two. To think that law and the way we have been practicing it will be immune to these fast-paced changes in society is not only naïve but absolutely unrealistic.
Indeed, the technological transformation of the legal industry is already on. As in other fields of human endeavor, it is the same accelerated progress, characterized by innovations whose rapid application and diffusion will inevitably change both the law and the practice of law.
Law Tech vs Legal Tech.
Although the terms are more often than not used interchangeably, Lawtech has sometimes been defined differently from legal tech. Lawtech, as a term, has a British origin, while Legal Tech has an American origin.
The schools that distinguish the terms view Legal Tech as the use of technology to help lawyers to simplify processes, while Lawtech is defined as the technology which replaces lawyers and, therefore, is more client-oriented. Another argument is that legal tech focuses on the legal industry, while Lawtech is comprehensive of other disciplines and therefore has a wider category.
Whichever school one decides to lean towards, the terms can appropriately be described as the use of software and technology to help lawyers, firms, and businesses to streamline processes and optimize the delivery of legal services. In its origins, Legal Tech was oriented to support the legal industry, helping lawyers to simplify some tasks and processes.
However, Legal Tech has evolved to be associated more often, with technology startups disrupting the practice of law, by giving people access to online software that reduces or in some cases eliminates the need to consult a lawyer, and also connecting people with lawyers more efficiently, through online marketplaces and lawyer-matching websites.
Aspects like research, practice management, document automation, document storage, billings, accounting and electronic discovery have seen radical transformation engendered by digitization.
No matter how you look at it, legal tech represents the inevitable disruption of the legal industry.
The law does not operate outside the economy. Economic shifts like the one the technological revolution is bringing unto the world, will always create market dislocations, uncover market holes and create entirely new markets. Thus the transformation is not only inevitable, it is necessary.
To understand what this might mean to you, good or bad, and how you might take action, you must first acknowledge that the shift is happening.
PESSIMIST OR OPTIMIST?
For pessimists, the fear of losing their jobs to machines is real, but for optimists, it presents opportunities and a call for lawyers to rethink and reinvent their roles in legal service delivery.
Remaining relevant and competitive requires constant reevaluation and revolution. If you are not growing, you are dying.