‘Lawtech’ is an increasingly used buzzword in the legal industry as more and more firms switch on to the potential it has. Not to mention the huge amount of investment that’s driving the industry forward at quite a pace! Financial backing has almost tripled over the past two years, with £62m being invested in Lawtech start-ups so far this year.1
WHAT DOES LAWTECH ACTUALLY MEAN?
The Law Society describes Lawtech as ‘technologies that aim to support, supplement or replace traditional methods for delivering legal services, or that improve the way the justice system operates.’ It consists of forward looking law firms that have these technologies embedded into their operations, and vendors that are developing and providing these services to them.2
- Legal document drafting automation
- Artificial intelligence
- Smart legal contracts
- Case management systems
- Electronic dispute resolution
- Knowledge and research tools.3
A GROWING SECTOR
Lawtech is behind Fintech and Insurtech, which have been prevalent in the financial and insurance industries for some time now. The legal sector is set to follow suit, progressing with the rise of technology designed to improve law firms’ processes.4 But whilst we’re seeing some consolidation of Lawtech providers which gives a sign of the Lawtech market maturing, some law firms are only just dipping their toe in the water. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this space and if law firms adopt it, they should start to enjoy the benefits of reduced costs, higher levels of job satisfaction and faster, more accurate outputs. Those firms that fully embrace it will most likely attract employees with a similar mind set. After all, you can now get a degree in Lawtech.5
LAWTECH IN PRACTICE
If you’re keen to jump on the bandwagon, it’s important that your firm is invested in growing its technical capabilities. There are so many Lawtech vendors and services to choose from, it can be a minefield working out which ones are a potential match for your business. Attending conferences, listening to podcasts, searching the web and even going out to tender can help to scope and finesse the possibilities.
Vital to successfully adopting Lawtech is the implementation stage. Allowing the firm culture to shift as change embeds will take time and require careful consideration. Some Lawtech services overlap with elements of solicitors’ roles, such as admin tasks, so this will need to be factored into the shift. What’s apparent is that the variety of choiceis now blooming which could make it the right time to invest whilst the market is highly competitive.
It’s not hard to imagine the future of technology, perhaps aided by computer-generated films and sci-fi fiction, but it’s relatively unknown how advanced it will actually get to. Some industries are even seeing a claw-back with demand moving backwards, for example in the eBook versus paper book market.6 However, with many tasks that used to take upendless hours of time soon to become digitalised, the typical makeup of a law firm may be rather different in years to come.