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Legal Tech and Why it Matters for Law Students

‘Legal Tech’- What Is It?

Legal technology, or ‘legal tech’ as commonly referred, has been somewhat of a buzzword for a while. What does it actually mean? Legal tech typically refers to any use of technology for the provision of legal services. It encompasses various forms of contributions made by technology, software and artificial intelligence in the legal field. Advancements in technology have impacted every industry, including some of the more traditional ones like the legal industry, as these advancements have affected how we communicate, work, or obtain information. Legal technology has modernized the traditional practices of law by, for example, streamlining case management, legal drafting, providing electronic payment options, or online document storage, among other things. Most of this technology is designed to help attorneys and firms practice law more efficiently on one hand, and on the other hand, to enable individuals to access legal services in a fast, cost-effective manner. 

Advantages of Legal Technology in the Workplace

Legal technology provides several advantages to the private practice space. It allows smaller firms and sole practitioners to automate tasks, leverage powerful research tools, perform more efficiently and by doing so compete with the leading names in the field. Even back in 2015, a PwC report showed that improving the use of technology was the top priority in law firms, especially in the following five areas: 

Increased geographical reach: legal technology is helping law firms go global. The commercialization of some legal services is making it possible for firms to promote their work across borders and diversify their portfolio.

Transparency: through legal technology, clients can now have a clearer view of their case progress, fees and other pertinent information, which thus enables the industry to have a more client-centric approach.

Better use of resources: with legal technology, human resources can be deployed for other tasks. For example, rather than having paralegals working on monotonous document management, legal technology can automate this task thus enabling them to spend more time on more strategic, meaningful work, such as legal research or client work.

Faster processing and time management: it is no surprise that technology is faster and more efficient than the human worker in performing most of the tasks. AI solutions can analyze documents and deliver research results faster, making the overall process more resource efficient.

Error reduction: legal technology and AI are extremely helpful at reducing errors. This is important as such errors can be quite costly in the legal space, especially in cases when we deal with documents to be submitted to courts, or contracts that involve big transactions.

Why Does It Matter to Law Students?

As mentioned earlier, legal tech benefits law firms and is expected to be deployed more widely in the future. Technology has managed to penetrate every industry, making technology-related skills crucial for successful employment. With more businesses becoming reliant on technology, there is no doubt that being ‘tech savvy’ can help students access better job opportunities and have a competitive edge in the market. 

According to a survey by Robert Half Legal, more than 6 in 10 lawyers (62%) that were surveyed said that their hiring decisions are influenced more by job candidates’ technical abilities than their soft skills. As explained by Rob Marrs, after meeting people across the legal profession, most legal businesses will become technology businesses in the medium term. If major clients are moving in that direction, then law students need to be aware of this so they can advise properly in the future. The buzz word prior to training contract interviews is ‘commercial awareness’. 

As suggested by Marrs, commercial awareness increasingly includes the need to understand technology: how will technology affect law firms and in-house organizations in the coming years? How will lawyers utilize technology to serve clients? Legal tech may thus give you a bonus if you talk about it in any training contract or vacation scheme interviews, according to James Yang.

This therefore demonstrates that legal tech skills are not only desirable but will soon be crucial.

Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in virtual and hybrid work environments, which enhances the need for lawyers to be reliant on technology, but also to be trained on effectively leveraging digital solutions.  As demonstrated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, 44% of firms use technology to allow staff to work more flexibility, and solicitors who were required to have law tech skills were paid on average 13% more than those without lawtech skills.

According to Oxford University, 56% of solicitors agree with this statement: ‘lawyers need to become familiar with multiple non-legal specialisms, such as data science, project management, and design thinking’. As a graduate recruitment manager from Clifford Chance, Yasmina Kone explains, people with a technology background or lawyers with an interest in technology is becoming more important in the legal sector for two reasons: (1) the world is becoming more technology-focused and it is great to have trainees join who are already skilled in using technology to solve business problems and have an interest in the legal issues surrounding technology; and (2) having a different background ensures different perspectives, more creative solutions, and thus best client service. 

Ellen Lake, a senior associate at Clifford Chance and involved in the recruitment process echoes this need, by stating that ‘the modern lawyer is expected to have a desire to explore and be open to using legal technology where appropriate in matter delivery. Our recruitment process reflects this.’ This shows that law firms are more interested in recruiting individuals with tech skills as they are believed to be more efficient, proficient, and adapt to meeting the requirements of the ever-growing legal industry.

As we have now discussed the significance of acquiring legal tech skills for law students and entry-level legal professionals, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post that will provide practical tips and guidance on how to actually improve these skills.

Author: Dalia Saffideen