Legal technology is a branch of technological innovation that targets and affects the legal sector specifically. The considerable pace of new invention in tech sectors – bolstered by government investment in UK-based innovation and growth – has highlighted some avenues of innovation that could change the face of the legal profession, streamlining judicial processes and helping firms during discovery.
However, in concert with the rapid pace of new technology that benefits legal practice, the technology’s legal implications are also being raised. With a technological landscape that has far outstripped the remit of conventional law, demand for technology lawyers has increased to enable businesses and lawmakers to navigate new tech possibilities.
But what legal tech solutions are emerging in the sector? The legal profession is famously averse to major upheaval and change, but there are some innovations which could change legal processes permanently and for the better.
Automated processes are nothing new to larger modern businesses, where large swathes of paperwork and documentation are handled by algorithms. Uptake by the legal profession has been slow, owing in part to the legal implications of mishandled information. But automation technology today can eliminate the possibility of clerical error nearly entirely, streamlining administrative processes and giving lawyers more time to focus on casework and with contract amendment and review software, everything runs even smoother.
Artificial intelligence has also come a long way in less than a decade, with commercially available machine-learning algorithms that can sift through and process information at a rapid pace. Machine learning research programs represent a potential sea-change in the division of labour at legal practices, as programs can assist lawyers and clerks in the examination of evidence to find patterns and strands of case-relevant information. This can make discovery a much quicker and much more robust process for firms and clients.
Remote working technology was embraced with open arms by a majority of industries in the early months of 2020, as coronavirus restrictions and lockdown measures prevented in-person meetings. With a steadily growing backlog of cases, courtrooms across the UK and the US had to swiftly adapt to the ‘new normal’ and implement remote capabilities of their own. As the worst of the pandemic recedes, these provisions may well be here to stay, providing a streamlined way to continue to cut down the court backlogs.
One of the major roadblocks to the adoption of tech solutions in the legal profession has been the security of private and privileged information. For the legal establishment, physical documentation was easier to police, and data security breaches less likely to impact cases (assuming of course that they had very good information security controls using the ISO 27001 standard). But developments in blockchain technology are slowly eliminating the possibility of fraudulent access to legal documents, with smart contracts enabling lawyers and clients to share information attached to an immutable ledger. Alterations are written into the contract as they happen, enabling secure information updates near-instantaneously.
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