Lawyers Should Not Be Afraid of Legal Technology
The last decade has been a turning point in the Legal Sector, marked by rapidly increasing regulation, increased pressures, and technological advancement. This shifting legal landscape, understandably, is likely to raise concerns about firms’ and, at a higher level, lawyers’ ability to adapt to all of the ensuing drastic transformations.
Although most lawyers believe, at least implicitly, in the power of legal technology to improve their working day, many are skeptical or even fearful of long-term future legal technology. A lot of this anxiety appears to stem from the belief that technology, while usually revolutionary in the long run, can quickly become outdated and almost bureaucratic in its complexity on longer time scales; take, for example, email.
Email’s function was revolutionary for law firms, immediately lowering printing ink and paper costs while also reducing the time waste and loss associated with manual and physical delivery of missives and documents.
Despite the ease, expediency, and cost savings provided by email as one of the earliest and most useful legal tools, the consequences of its design and benefits have provided some significant long-term downsides for practicing lawyers. For the older generation of lawyers, email has become more complicated, with phishing emails, spam emails, and draconian spam filters that occasionally mistake legitimate emails for spam.
Both of these example pain points illustrate how technology can develop to become a burden, as well as a benefit, something many lawyers and legal staff are painfully aware of.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, many lawyers are concerned about the potential for legal technology to replace them in carrying out legal work. The current and prospective impact of AI on the legal profession is difficult to overstate as an example and primary threat.
Even with these lofty claims and deep concerns about the future, the legal sector is unlikely to become unrecognizable (read as code for lawyerless) as a result of legal tech tools such as artificial intelligence in the legal sector. Lawyers’ workloads may be reduced significantly, but they are unlikely to be removed entirely from their hands. Many aspects of the law are repetitive and potentially algorithmic, but there is a human factor as well as a subjective element that is overlooked.
People must be able to relate to those they work with in order to trust them and get the most out of a transaction, both emotionally and financially. This cannot be accomplished without informed human interaction – the kind that only a human litigator can provide, not a machine. Besides that, some legal processes, such as standards of unconscionability, are benchmarkable but far from strict enough to be reduced to a set of clear-cut regulations.
To fully displace lawyers in these two critical ways, legal technology would need to pass the Turing test and possess self-evolving logic capabilities, both of which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. More likely, legal AI and another legal tech will make many legal support roles, such as office administrator and paralegal, obsolete, making a lawyer’s life easier rather than making it harder by putting them out of work.
Since we’ve proven that lawyers don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, it’s also important to note that any aforementioned concerns that legal technology will evolve to create its own pain points can and should be assuaged by a good legal tech provider, who can constantly modify and adjust their system, in line with their client’s concerns, to mitigate and compensate for difficulties encountered.
Finally, lawyers should not be afraid of legal technology. It will not make their jobs more difficult; on the contrary, it is very unlikely to put them out of work for the foreseeable future.