As legal professionals, we’re not the only ones feeling the ripple effect of new legal technology.
Yes, it’s streamlining the way we work. But it’s also benefitting the broader public significantly – by increasing access to justice.
However, to fully reap the benefits, representatives of government sectors and educational institutions must champion the new reality of LawTech, says Christina Blacklaws, Managing Director of Blacklaws Consulting.
There is huge potential in LawTech. And new, aspiring lawyers, she adds, should seek employers that embrace it.
Don’t fear this billion-dollar market opportunity
Technology is forever changing the way those in the industry operate, causing some to feel uncertain about the future of their work.
But Christina says there is nothing to be concerned about – only excited.
The growth potential presented by LawTech (as it’s called in the United Kingdom) is astronomical.
“In the UK, LawTech is becoming an integral part of the legal world,” says Christina.
“I chair the LawTech UK Panel, which is a UK government body. We believe we are at an inflection point where the LawTech start-up and scale-up community has reached over 200 companies here.
“Our economists estimate a £22 billion market opportunity, with unmet demands from small and medium sized enterprises and consumers being valued at £11.4 billion.
“And £38.6 billion of cost savings for businesses.”
Christina has a message for firms who aren’t yet on board with these changes.
“Firms that haven’t invested need to consider how they can adopt the appropriate technology that will enhance their legal practice – and get on with it!” she urges.
“Soon, for clients and talent alike, this will be a requisite hygiene factor. A necessary part of doing business. Not just for efficiency, speed and cost, but also for the ease of use and additional insights and support that LawTech provides.”
Paving the way for social change
Christina is an impassioned advocate for diversity, equality and inclusivity.
And she says that embracing LawTech is key to promoting greater access to legal justice for those who need it most.
“One of the objectives of LawTech UK is to explore how innovation can transform access to justice,” she says.
“There is so much unmet legal need in the UK, and the rest of the world fares no better. The OECD estimates that only 46% of the world’s population live under the Rule of Law.
“And no one would suggest that our current systems – which take too long and cost too much – are optimal.
“That’s why one of the ongoing projects at LawTech UK is to develop data access tools and a universal legal schema. These will give us access to new forms of insights. And will help clients prevent issues arising in the first place and enable a universal approach – one that benefits all.”
The future is – rather suddenly – here
Christina predicts significant change in the legal profession’s near future due to tech disruption.
But along with the rest of the world, the pandemic has forced us to rely on technology to a greater extent than even she foresaw.
She admits that we’ve been ushered to a point we didn’t anticipate arriving at for some time.
“A piece of UK research recently evidenced that the pandemic has already sped up digital transformation by 5.3 years. And I don’t see that slowing down,” she says.
“What was assumed to be the future of work is now the present. And what was once ‘nice to have’ now plays a critical part in maintaining business continuity.
“Those in the legal sector are tech savvy, because we have to be.
“As well as the access to justice solutions, I think there’ll be further strides in contract lifecycle management, predictive analytics for risk management and case analysis and outcome prediction.
“Plus, a sustained movement to online justice and self-help tools for consumers and small businesses that are much more comprehensive and successful,” she says.
Embracing new opportunities
So how do we best harness the transformative power of LawTech?
According to Christina, the first step is to increase awareness of such disruptions.
“Most business leaders are already aware that LawTech is transforming the market,” she says.
“And they know that staff and clients are willing to adopt it.
“However, they are confused about which products to use and how to successfully deploy a LawTech change management programme. This, coupled with structural impediments like the partnership and billable hours models, leads to inertia and lack of investment.”
Christina stresses that clear, constructive engagement and information is necessary to instill confidence. And that needs to come from those at the top.
“Educational institutions, representative bodies and governments have a very important role to play in supporting the legal profession to adopt LawTech,” she stresses.
“The Centre for Legal Innovation is pivotal in helping the entire legal ecosystem positively respond to disruptive technology and innovation – by supporting education, engagement and collaboration in the sector.”
Why the freshest faces are our most valuable
In light of the transitional period the legal industry is in, Christina has some advice for new and aspiring lawyers.
For those deciding where they want to study, Christina recommends doing your due diligence – and being discerning about the values your chosen institution champions.
“Research carefully,” she says.
“Also, be sure to attend a progressive school – one that provides real insight and experience into the current and future practice of law.
“In the UK, unfortunately, there are too many universities and law schools that are teaching law in the same way they did 20 years ago.
“This is unfair and unacceptable.”
And if you’re just entering the profession? Christina has this to say.
“Firstly, choose a law firm that can clearly evidence its purpose and values. And check that they accord with your own. For me, that is about being activists and change-makers in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion and ESG (environmental, social, and governance).
“Secondly, ensure your law firm is squarely focused on the future, open to change – and truly committed to investing in innovation and the appropriate and challenging use of technology.”
Regardless of where you are in your career, Christina says that a commitment to championing technology is a must.
Not just for your career and your industry – but for everyone.