The Lord Mayor of London is today to call for the UK’s legal sector ‘to move into the 21st century’ as part of a major speech at the annual Judges’ Dinner to be held at Mansion House this evening.
In his address, the Lord Mayor, Peter Estlin, will say: ‘The Law Society has found that adoption of technology amongst UK legal firms remains limited, meaning that the capabilities and benefits of these technologies are yet to be fully harnessed.’
This is despite the fact that some ‘firms are experimenting with … exploring the use of artificial intelligence in contract review’, for example.
‘In order to address this issue, earlier this month, the City’s Chair of Policy, Catherine McGuinness, launched our LawTech Sounding Board. Complementing the Government’s LawTech Delivery Panel, the Sounding Board will bring together leaders in the legal and tech sectors to promote the uptake of technology across the legal and wider financial services sector preserving the excellent reputation of the UK’s legal services and retaining the UK’s competitive advantage as a legal technology hub,’ he will add.
The Lord Mayor, (who is the figurehead of the financial centre known as the City of London – rather than the London metropolitan area, whose head is the Mayor of London) will also focus on the major steps made toward gender equality in the law.
‘2019 not only marks the 125th anniversary of the Bar Council, but also 100 years since the Sex Disqualification Removal Act. An act which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. It is thanks to this Act, that today, there is a ratio of 50:50 male and female solicitors, a statistic which the City hopes to bolster through supporting initiatives such as the Law Society’s Gender Equality Symposium two weeks ago,’ he will say.
‘One hundred years later, we are again asking if we are ‘fit for the modern world’, this time with respect to ensuring that the UK’s legal services reflect the high-tech, digitally progressive era of the 21st Century. For the UK to remain a leading global provider of legal services, we must ensure our legal sector matches this global trend, driving innovation and modernising our infrastructure to enable our judiciary to cater for the clients of the digital age,’ the Lord Mayor will conclude.
The Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Secretary of State for Justice, and The Rt Hon The Lord Burnett of Malton, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, will also be speaking.
Now, readers may well say: this is all very nice, but what benefits will this support really bring? The short answer is that the City of London is well-placed to bring people together in what is one of the world’s top financial centres, from tech companies, to law firms, to a global who’s who of corporates and financial sector businesses, as well as investors and other interested parties.
There is also considerable lobbying power there. At present the UK appears to be doing all it can to support the adoption of new legal technology, including at a regulatory level, but it never hurts to have the City of London and its Lord Mayor fighting your corner.
And, for those law firms that haven’t already started to think seriously about how legal technology can help transform their business and better meet the needs of their clients then this is a call to action.
That said, it seems that nearly every firm in the UK 100 is taking the issue seriously now, at least at a theoretical level. The challenge, as ever, is meaningful adoption and real change in how firms provide work for their clients – i.e. a change in the means of production. But, we have to start somewhere and if the Lord Mayor’s speech gives some less enthusiastic partners and senior barristers a bit of a spur to act, then that will be a good thing.