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Legal Tech - A Lawyer's Perspective
Robert Shooter, Head of Technology, Outsourcing And Privacy, Fieldfisher LLP
And over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the legal tech market.
We’re still not there yet, but is the writing on the wall for the legal profession?
Where we’ve come from
Lawyers have always been behind the curve in their approach to innovation. There aren’t many professions that still charge on a ‘time and materials’ basis, or expect their work generators to also do the work, manage their teams and look after the client relationships.
Technology has, until recently, reflected the ‘traditional’ aspect of our industry.
Historically, most law firms have been comfortable with the basics: time-recording software, standard back-office functions, maybe some CRM databases and template-creation tools for a standard court, corporate and real estate document. All of this provides the absolute minimum functionality to allow a law firm to operate in a compliant and efficient way.
Where are we now?
Over the last 5 years, the market has become significantly more sophisticated. Our dispute resolution team uses e-discovery tools. Tools are also available (such as Ravel Law) to predict outcomes based on relevant case law.
We use DocuSign for eSignatures. Our German office is pioneering the use of Bryter for application development. Some law firms use the AI engines in Luminence and Kira to take the sting out of due diligence. ThoughtRiver carries out contract reviews and risk management. HighQ provides integrated legal workflow.
Legal tech is not replacing lawyers for now
There are two inhibitors to legal tech at the moment that is stopping its wholesale adoption.
The first is that ‘out of the box’ functionality (so impressive in the demos) is at the commodity end of the legal market: NDAs / standard services agreements / standard forms – no problem. Anything a bit more complex or law-firm bespoke? Most of the AI software requires a significant investment in time and cash to get them up and running.
Then, of course, you need to get your lawyers to use it.
It’s not so much ‘Turkeys for Christmas’, it’s just that we’re a traditional lot and cultural change (which is so important if we want our lawyers to adopt the use of innovative tech) is exceptionally difficult. People like doing things the way they’ve been doing them for generations
It’s not so much ‘Turkeys for Christmas’, it’s just that we’re a traditional lot and cultural change (which is so important if we want our lawyers to adopt the use of innovative tech) is exceptionally difficult. People like doing things the way they’ve been doing them for generations.
However, there is a ray of hope. Our clients are squeezing margins, demanding faster turnaround times, and greater use of innovation. If law firms don’t change culturally, our clients will go elsewhere as we struggle to stay competitive.
Advice to the market
For Legal Tech firms to succeed, my advice would be to make your software:
• incredibly intuitive – you’re dealing with a very traditional industry (i.e. make it Apple-like in its ease of use);
• sparkle out-of-the-box;
• compatible with all current legacy systems; and
• focused on its functionality (not a Jack-of-all-Trades – we’re not giving up Microsoft Office just yet).
Demonstrate an immediate ROI – not in 6-months when the implementation is complete.
We’ll look at anything that will cover its costs (and then some) and not require a massive culture shift. And bring it on – the Legal Industry needs this – in three to five years I predict a profession that will be changed beyond recognition.