OPINION: Legal Tech is the future but it will not create a world without lawyers

Innovation is rapidly changing the legal industry but tech tools cannot replace the human factor

OPINION: Legal Tech is the future but it will not create a world without lawyers
About the author: Andriy Dovbenko is the owner of EVRIS law firm
Andriy Dovbenko
Saturday, 06 October 2018 17:39

Everywhere in the world today, businesses are changing rapidly under the influence of new technologies. The legal industry is no exception. Jokes about lawyers being stubborn to innovation are starting to fall flat in the face of an emerging harsh reality where the introduction of innovations is becoming more of a necessity than a matter of choice. Anyone doing business in Ukraine needs to understand how technologies are affecting legal services and how this can ultimately help both law firms and their clients.

All new technologies and developments relating to the legal business and its clients are united under the name Legal Tech. This is the commonly accepted abbreviation of the original English-language term “legal technology”. At the present time, the bulk of developments in the Legal Tech sphere concern individuals or small and medium-sized businesses and relate to a broad range of relatively basic legal tasks including wills, leases, primary online consultations, state registration, and searches for court decisions.

Legal industry professionals assess the development of such technologies in a variety of different ways. Some are afraid that robots will take away their livelihood and render their services redundant. However, such concerns are largely limited to young professionals who traditionally begin their careers doing routine document work, some of which is now done faster and more accurately by computer programs. Despite the partial validity of these concerns, I believe that a good specialist with a great desire to develop in jurisprudence will never find themselves without work.

On the contrary, thanks to the automation of processes, people in the legal field will increasingly find that they have more time to address the kinds of complex and sophisticated legal issues that cannot yet be resolved with the help of artificial intelligence solutions. In addition, customers will only benefit from the development of Legal Tech: it solves simple tasks independently and inexpensively, while also making it possible to address large-scale matters in a much shorter timeframe.

In the investment industry, there are many complex nuances and intricate processes requiring human intervention outside the scope of today’s Legal Tech capabilities. Issues often extend beyond the letter of the law and require a human factor that technological solutions cannot provide. It takes a real “live” lawyer to understand local peculiarities and to use personal contacts in order to obtain the necessary information required to develop a solution to any given problem.

Nevertheless, new technologies can be useful in the field of investment. For example, the automated search of large databases of court decisions or state registrars is a particularly popular and time saving function. With the help of computers, the process of collecting documents and legal expertise can be undertaken in a much briefer period. Something that could previously have lasted months is now possible in a relatively short timeframe. Mergers and acquisitions can also be assisted by special applications.

The field of applications or “apps” also offers huge scope for Legal Tech innovation improvements. With personal phones now firmly established as full-fledged work tools, we are seeing the rise of applications where the lawyer can communicate with clients, providing them with the necessary documents, consulting with colleagues, and so on.

Additionally, we are increasingly seeing law firms transfer data and entire services to cloud storage. This brings with it significant concerns regarding cybersecurity. These concerns are in many ways a serious consideration for any legal services business. On the one hand, the use of devices connected to the internet opens up potential loopholes for cyber-fraudsters, meaning that lawyers whose activity relies heavily on confidentiality should carefully select services and programs to use at work, especially those that are able to connect directly to office machines and company networks. On the other hand, a new area of activity has emerged covering the protection of client rights in cyberspace.

In short, there is nowhere to hide from Legal Tech, and it does not matter whether you manage huge investment deals or lead a more modest medium-sized company. Investments in the field of legal innovation are growing every year. In January this year, the amount invested in start-up funds in this area reached USD 49 million. The number of companies providing services introducing artificial intelligence in legal practice is also growing. Thanks to a combination of these factors, the overall volume of the legal market in general is also increasing. This points to the promising prospects for new technologies, and is not, as it turns out, an indication that we are moving towards a world without lawyers.

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