The legal world is regarded as traditional and slow moving. It remains guided by precedents that often date back centuries and its reticence to innovate means it lags behind industries like finance and real estate when it comes to embracing technology.
But, slowly and surely, legal-tech is having a significant impact. Incumbents are investing and innovating while innovative, agile startups are enacting change from the ground up.
Technology is improving existing processes and frameworks in many ways. In theory, it should mean that legal practitioners can focus on servicing clients and minimising risk. In an often-perplexing, fast-changing world, with complicated, fluid movements such as GDPR and Brexit causing huge legal headaches, technology is helping to keep the law one step ahead.
Broadly, we’re seeing two types of change happening right now.
Firstly, tech is causing industry-wide, incremental improvements. For example, smart contracts are speeding up the papering process. Blockchain is securing records, as paper and centrally-located computer files are slowly retired.
Secondly, we see fundamental step changes, such as the rollout of big data, which can analyse vast stores of video, audio and text, previously unmanageable by humans. The tech revolution is on.
Of course, we must remain wary of technology and buzzwords. We want outcomes, not hype. So, here are 3 important advances changing the legal world in front of our eyes:
Leading law firms are investing in technology that is automating tasks usually carried out by junior lawyers. Pinsent Masons has developed an AI-led TermFrame system that guides lawyers through frameworks and precedents, emulating human decision making. Linklaters’Verifi sifts through regulatory registers, checking the veracity of client names for banks, processing thousands of names overnight, a process that can take a junior lawyer up to 12 minutes a name. The positive impact on business has been significant for these behemoths, with machines giving lawyers time to focus on higher-value work.
Blockchain and smart contracts
Known for providing the technology that underpins bitcoin, blockchain saves friction and time by negating the need for counter-parties and brokers who, until now, had to organise and oversee an exchange or deal. Hence, it’s interesting for law. Smart contracts allow law to move away from labour-intensive, paper-based processes into a data-driven, digital environment, where contracts and agreements exist securely online. Linklaters have formed a consortium, partnering with The Accord Project, bringing together “key players in the world of smart contract technology, blockchain and legal tech companies.”
E-discovery is revolutionising legal practice, especially when it comes to litigation and disputes. Being able to analyse and draw out anomalies and conclusions from a vast amount of previously unintelligible data is making the enforcement of law easier and quicker. Search and recovery is extending beyond traditional paper records and standard electronic documents. Lawyers can now search a variety of media, such as audio and video, as well as social media, in order to perform due diligence on transactions. Further, companies in industries like finance, are now being asked by regulators to store more data for record keeping. This is keeping all industries safer. Interrogating these vast databases is becoming quicker. In time, AI will impact this sector, too.
One company shaping this tech-led revolution is London-based, Lexoo, a digital marketplace for legal services. Founder, Daniel van Binsbergen, set up the company to collate specialist practitioners in the hope of eliminating the hassle of hiring a lawyer.
Lexoo now has access to 750 lawyers in 50 countries. Relying on simple marketplace technology and an ever-growing, trusted community, Lexoo’s success is evidence that technology is disintermediating and challenging the traditional model that has given the legal profession a reputation for being slow moving and expensive.
Clearly, attitudes are changing and, from blockchains to marketplaces, technology adoption is accelerating. Consequently, we’re seeing huge crossover and collaboration between tech and legal. Osborne Clarke and Vodafone. Allen & Overy and Deloitte. As seen in other industries, technology breaks down barriers and leads to efficiencies. The legal world is taking note.
The technologies that are reshaping the world of law are here now and they’re here to stay. They offer huge opportunities for all involved in the industry and all who are served by it. It’s a tremendously exciting phase of development for legal-tech. And it’s only just beginning.
Here at Shieldpay, we’re shaking things up, by revolutionising peer-peer payments across classifieds, marketplaces and e-Commerce platforms, globally, so you have total piece of mind when buying and selling online.
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