Legal technology is a hot topic these days. With the introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007, law firms now face fierce competition from alternative business structures providing legal services. Co-op Legal and PwC Legal, for example, are helping to form new modes of delivering legal services. It’s therefore clear that using technology will help law firms maintain their competitive advantage.
There is a common misconception that technology will merely automate a task. However, we’re increasingly seeing law firms developing innovative legal solutions such as online dispute resolution. So it begs the question: will lawyers eventually be replaced by technology?
Technology is transforming the legal profession. Innovation in the field will see trainee solicitors move away from certain administrative duties to more specialised work. Implementing technology into the legal field will also create new jobs. For example, firms like Clifford Chance are specifically looking for graduates with technology experience. We’re likely to see an influx of new job titles in the tech sector and legal tech start ups to accommodate the growing need for new talent.
While there are many things technology can do such as administrative tasks and more complicated things like dispute resolution, lawyers are still needed for crucial legal advice. Technology lacks the empathetic skills which are imperative when dealing with sensitive matters. Similarly, when advising clients, legal technology will not be able to show the same professional judgement and skills a lawyer possesses. Furthermore, technology cannot carry out certain tasks a human can. For example, attend court hearings on behalf of clients or retrieve witness statements.
The great marvels of technology are vulnerable to risks like cyber attacks and breaches of data privacy. Prime examples of these are Facebook’s data breach and the cyber attack on DLA Piper. They serve as sobering reminders that technology is not without its flaws.
Some may argue that with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in place, there is a reduced risk of cyber attacks. With that being said, the risks still exist, and attacks such as these have a strong adverse effect on law firms. This brings us to the question of whether the risks of technology justifies the benefits it can provide.
While the integration of technology into the legal field aims to make law services flexible and accessible, using artificial intelligence also enables firms to do more with less time. As a result, law firms will be able to provide high-quality work to their clients at a fraction of cost.
On the other hand, safeguarding technology and employing specialists in technology to operate the machines could prove costly for law firms. In spite of this, some will argue that the costs of maintaining legal technology will be justified in the long run.
Like everything, legal technology has its pros and cons. While it revolutionises the legal profession and model, it can never fully replace humans. Law requires a human touch, and technology is best seen as a compliment that works alongside professionals in the field to provide high-quality outcomes. In this era of rapid advancement, the tech world changes every week and lawyers will need to stay up to date. This means that they may have to know more about technology in order to keep up.
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