This is an edited version of an article by Martin Fauvel, an analyst at French consultancy, Day One, on the impact of legal tech.
Legal departments and business law firms cannot afford to ignore the fundamental shift [created by legal tech] in an increasingly complex, global and interconnected world. Resources are not infinite, so controlling human and financial costs means we have to reconsider the way in which we work and interact.
Digitisation is one of the answers. The continued expansion of standards, laws, directives and regulations as well as the need to come up with the right risk analysis as and when required, not to mention the right legal solution, increases the workload, responsibility and pressure on legal experts and lawyers. The famous injunction to ‘do more with less’ is not going away. Whether or not economic growth is in the cards, the involvement of legal professionals is essential for the sustainability, performance and competitiveness of companies.
For this ‘Legal & digital technology’ revolution to be an asset we must:
- integrate it into a wider reflection on the vision, role and value of legal expertise,
- place human capital at the heart of our considerations and support this paradigm shift so that the “creative destruction” so dear to Schumpeter turns out to be more creative than destructive,
- reconsider the initial education and professional training of legal experts and lawyers so that it includes the business, behavioral and digital components which are inherent to companies in the 21st century,
- ensure transparency in tools, algorithms and other artificial intelligence models so that the actions performed by these tools or the decisions made with their support are both enlightened and ethical.
- finally, we must combine artificial intelligence with human and emotional intelligence and not partition them off, while identifying tasks that should be done by a machine when it is more efficient than humans and those which must be performed by humans when their judgment, ethics, analysis and experience are essential.
Our main findings [of Day One’s research] are focused around five points:
- BtoB trend: The growth of legal techs has been particularly dynamic since 2013 and is increasingly concentrated within the BtoB market.
- The significance of “sharing” startups (35% of all legal techs): information sharing was the initial need to have driven the development of startups, particularly via marketplaces dedicated to lawyers. This is a crowded segment whose maturity now seems established. Undergoing a process of consolidation on the most conventional niches, it is now developing in other directions.
- Delivery of legal services by legal techs (54% of legal techs analysed): As things stand, legal techs have mainly developed on the niche of production of legal services. This segment is therefore now set to change dimension in order to embrace technology which is increasingly advanced as well as soft artificial intelligence. Interfaces will have chatbots, interactions between tools are giving rise to smart contracts, and securing information is being ensured by the blockchain.
- The emergence of decision making services (11% of legal techs analysed): Although decision making services are still few and far between, they are attracting growing interest from practitioners and investors. The most appealing development concerns statistical analysis of past rulings and their statistical processing. The most important prospects are related to the transformation of structured texts (articles of law, jurisprudence, doctrine, etc.) into data. This evolution is made possible thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and one of its key aspects: machine learning.
- Future developments: The legal techs able to benefit from the situation will be those that manage to focus on solving a problem by exploiting technology to a maximum and intermixing technologies; Increased use of technology will require a rethink of the skills required within legal departments and law firms, going beyond legal and technical skills; The legal techs will have to ensure transparency to enable legal experts and lawyers to appropriate the origin, processing and use of data.