Technology is no doubt disrupting several industries, the most affected being banking and finance. While all this was going on, we sort of forgot the legal system. It has seemed invincible for the longest time now but it seems likely that the next time you seek notary services near you, you could be served by a robot. How’s that for progress? Okay, that may not be happening in a long time, but law students and lawyers are already seeing some changes in their area.
– Legal Research
Lawyers spend lots of time in their desks and libraries looking up legal documents and reading up on whatever they can find to attach to a case, but that is being made easy by technology. Instead of spending all this time in actual libraries, they can now access most legal write-up including submissions and judgments online. The only problems with this flexibility are that it strains work-life balance for these professionals even more.
– Artificial Intelligence and Decision making
These days, cases where facts are right there and stakes aren’t so high are decided by software to save time for more emotive cases. Traffic offences where the offender has been to court before are quite easy to decide after looking at the trend. However, murder cases and such that need the presence of a human being to reason and adjudicate are left to human judges. There is still the fact that coders need the help of legal professionals to come up with some of these statistics that enable the software to make its decision.
– Data Mining
Being as the data is available to any lawyer, they can now look up a judge’s reputation and judgments and be able to – almost confidently – predict his or her style and likely outcome if they are presented with a certain case. This knowledge leads to that particular lawyer pushing their case to the judge they believe would be lenient. Data mining is certainly working in favour of lawyers.
– Value Creation with Smart Contracts
Some contracts don’t need too much time to create as they are quite repetitive and so they can be automated. Artists are already making use of smart contracts by automating repetitive services and in the process saving lots of money in legal and accounting fees. Think of a lease document or an affidavit. The message in one is the same as the other with the only difference being the figures and names of parties to the contract. These are being automated to spare time and money.
This has been working well for a while now and the future presents even more telecommuting. Law professionals travel so much most of the time but technology has made it such that people holding meetings in different continents feel like they are in the same room. This trend is breaking boundaries – where a lawyer in Africa can represent a client in Europe and vice versa. Less air travel means more work is done and less air pollution. Win-win!
These changes are not all negative. They will add value to the profession and create opportunities for those willing to jump right in.