If there is one fact that is most frequently repeated at Evolve Law events when discussing the current state of law, it is that most lawyers are resistant to change. This resistance helps to explain much of the current predicament that the legal industry is in. Businesses are adapting to new economic realities and reshaped marketplaces, but too many law firms continue to operate under the model they’ve had for decades — a model that fails to meet the needs of the modern client or customer. Where law firms have fallen short, legal tech has stepped in to try and fill the void in access to justice and legal help, as well as push the legal industry into the twenty-first century.
Legal tech is an ever-growing industry that continues to expand into every area of the law. For consumers, it’s a boon to be able to be able to avoid the expensive legal fees that come with working with an attorney to get exactly what you need in a timely manner. It’s the next step for law in a world where services are increasingly automated and on-demand. If law firms don’t want to be left behind, they’ll have to change with the times as well.
Given how legal tech has changed law over the past few years, it’s not surprising that some attorneys can see it as an existential threat. Some wring their hands and talk of a future with robot lawyers, where humans have no role in the practice of law. But the future of law and legal tech is one of a peaceful coexistence. For all that artificial intelligence and predictive technology can offer, there is no replacing the insight that a human attorney can provide, or the reassurance and understanding that can come from talking with another person about your legal issues. There will always be a place for the insight and wisdom of attorneys within the legal profession.
So what will a marriage of law and technology look like? If machines can’t replace the intuition of the human attorney, they can certainly help lighten the workload. Lawyers are bogged down by paperwork and administrative tasks that consumes hours from their days, and even more time should a court case arise. With so many technological options that can assist or fully automate processes like ediscovery, document review and management, ebilling, and a host of other concerns, lawyers can will be freed up to use their training and insight to manage big-picture issues for their clients. The current model of the billable hour might disappear in favor of flat fee arrangements or other measures of providing clients a predictable cost. Even the in-office meeting might give way to virtual meetings as video chat and conference technology continues to improve.
Despite any fears, lawyers have a role to play in the future of law, just as legal technology does. As the world around them becomes faster and more efficient, lawyers can’t afford to stand still. With so many options available to make their jobs easier, lawyers and firms that want to survive need to implement the tools that legal tech provides to meet the demands of clients.