Historically technology in the legal industry has been around for a while now. Electronic records systems have helped firms improve their efficiency and their billings for years.
But within the modern context, LegalTech has evolved significantly. It has now come to represent a digital fueled transformation of the legal services industry that is driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology.
To understand why the legal fraternity still views technology with suspicion and paranoia it’s important to look at its historic context:
The rise and growth of technology within the global legal industry can be traced back to the 2008 financial crisis. This crisis brought with it greater client demands, immense cost-cutting pressures, and exposed a lack of standardization between firms and departments. Adoption of technology was inevitable and forced, in the face of cut-throat competition and the immense challenges of attracting new clients. Thus, the genesis of adopting technology comes from a place of compulsion and need. The lack of choice in this matter has always been a sore point.
In the same vein of optimization and efficiency, most legal practitioners also view technology and especially AI as competition for their jobs and livelihoods. McKinsey estimates that 23% of work done by lawyers can be automated by existing technology. As reliance on technology increases lawyers are also worried about there being a reduction in their billable hours due to improved efficiencies.
There are further concerns regarding the security and privacy aspects of depending on technology. Cyber hacks, ransomware attacks, data corruption, and theft have become all too common a part of the business world.
However, these perceptions often seem to stem from an incomplete or superficial understanding of technology within the legal space. It has been found that 36% of lawyers are unaware of the set of technologies used in law firms. The Bar Council of India in its letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India has categorically stated,
“I can emphatically say that 90% of Advocates and hon’ble judges throughout the length and breadth of the county are themselves unaware about the technology and about its nuances,..”
The fear of AI replacing layers is also far from the truth. Pattern recognition and machine learning together help reduce the time spent in the low-skill, manual, ‘drudge work’ leaving lawyers more time and energy to focus on the legal process.
There is no doubt that technological advancements are causing ‘innovation gaps’ between law firms that invest in and leverage technology, and those that don’t. The former enjoys higher efficiencies and greater economies of scale. But this of course requires that robust safety checks and security processes be put in place.
Cloud-based SaaS is often monetarily the best tech solution from an ROI perspective. But the impact of global regulations can significantly impact this. The impact of GDPR on non-EU companies using EU-based cloud services and similarly for the US, where companies fear customer data may be disclosed to the government under the US Cloud Act. In contrast, Switzerland has a stronger privacy-led approach to its Cloud Policy. Firms may also be tempted to use private Clouds but those can be expensive to set up and might have security risks that could expose data.
There can be further challenges in integrating legacy tech software with unified communications, security risks that pop up between IT infrastructure suppliers and software.
Further complications can include creating safe protocols for clients to upload and view documents. Here technologies like self-serve client onboarding are useful where facial recognition adds another layer of security. Setting up safe secure data rooms through secure portals where clients use multifactor authentication to verify data ensure no loss of privacy or security.
Once adequate safeguards are in place Tech can revolutionize how the law is practiced. It can help:
Streamline colleague/ client communications across geographies allowing remote teams and work from home facilities. Unified communication and collaboration allow lawyers and clients to share data using various devices and software replacing face-to-face meetings.
Automating eDiscovery helps lawyers sift through mountains of data and evidence in digital form using analytics and automation software. This saves time and junior resources.
Effective case management allows firms to schedule meetings, organize documents, share files, and automate billings, all through a centralized database allowing easier coordination between colleagues and clients.
Lastly, AI-based tools can now help classify and identify common due diligence issues and can help extract problematic or applicable clauses to be reviewed by lawyers.
AI-based prediction also uses big data analytics to calculate the probabilities of legal proceedings. Lawyers can use AI to access years of trial data to make informed decisions.
What we have seen despite doomsday reports of tech replacing jobs, the adoption of LegalTech is creating a unique impact on the industry. We are seeing the expansion of legal workforces to include tech and software employees. This diversification is a testament to the robustness of the legal fraternity and its expanding growth.
Once security and privacy concerns are allayed, a healthy growth in the extensive usage of Cloud/ SaaS solutions is inevitable due to their economic and competitive advantages. The question regarding the adoption of LegalTech is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.
(The author is Ms. Priyanka, COO, Manupatra, and the views expressed in this article are her own)