The Law Society of England & Wales has stated that it wants to help law firms adopt the latest legal technologies, including AI, as well as invest in start-ups, in a report published this week titled ‘Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services’.
The report, which looked at where the current state of legal technology is, gives a broad and eclectic overview of what various interviewees think. But, perhaps the most interesting aspect is the Law Society’s determination to play an active part in the legal tech sector, rather than sit on the sidelines.
The Law Society, which is in effect the union for English solicitors, while the SRA handles the regulatory matters, says: ‘…there are opportunities for the Law Society to engage with members on this journey.’
‘The Law Society could have a unique role in providing a path through the innovation landscape, one dotted with horizon- scanning insights, tools, lab spaces and a place where groups of individuals can help each other solve problems, plan for emerging needs, and nurture innovation,’ they added.
The organisation also wants to look at ways it can provide data to help benchmark the level and rate of innovation in the legal sector.
Last year senior staff at the Law Society also mooted the idea of setting up an incubator for new legal tech companies. While also last year, the outgoing CEO, Cat Dixon, talked at length about the need to embrace legal AI systems.
The report sets out seven areas where it thinks it may be able to help (see table below).
While some observers will be sceptical of the Law Society getting involved in legal tech initiatives, many others will no doubt welcome the fact that a representative body for lawyers is taking the new wave of legal tech seriously and also trying to be supportive where it can be.
That said, the idea of software vendor partnerships may raise some eyebrows, as it suggests not just helping law firms to adopt legal tech, or to help vendors better understand lawyers’ needs, but to invest and own a stake in certain new legal tech companies.
The Law Society is funded by members’ contributions and this would mean that indirectly members would own a share of what could be AI companies ‘handling’ legal work for clients. While this would not presumably be a legal conflict, it would be an interesting position for a body of lawyers.