The Primary Purpose of Legal Tech Is…..?

What is legal tech actually for? Why do so many talented people work so hard in this sector? Why is so much time and money invested in this endeavour?

To help answer this, Artificial Lawyer launched a survey on social media that asked the central question: What is the primary purpose of legal tech?

As you can see from the results below from a LinkedIn poll, and where a small Twitter poll had similar results, the answer to the question is: to reduce the cost of legal services – by far the most popular view.

So, let’s dig into what this means.

AL surveys on LinkedIn and Twitter, May 2024.

The Question

First, let’s clarify the question. The query was not: ‘what things can legal tech do?’ or ‘what things do you associate with legal technology?’, it was ‘what is the primary purpose?’

If you miss the purpose part, i.e. the human objective, then you might just say that legal tech delivers efficiency and leave it at that, but this is like saying democracy involves voting, i.e. that’s implicit and doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about the actual purpose of that activity on a human and socio-economic scale.

Next, can there only be one answer? No. When it comes to human behaviour then there will always be multiple rationales. Even if we engage in things that seem essential, we may not all be doing them for the same reasons. (And there are no doubt many additional options not listed above.)

The Answer: To Reduce the Cost of Legal Services

This site had assumed that very few people would take this option. Why? Because it’s the most radical of the four options, i.e. that tech should actually change the economics of the legal sector. Not that it might, or could, but that it should.

Artificial Lawyer would also take this view.

So, what does this mean? On a practical level, technology enables a person to perform a task or achieve an outcome with less effort and / or less personal investment of resources. You want to make some toast, get from London to New York, write a letter, speak to a friend on the other side of the city, cook some meat, and on, and on, all the way back to the first tool-making by hominids 100,000s of years ago.

One of the key aspects here is a reduction in cost, given that we now live in a mercantile economy where things are measured by monetary values. In short, in our sector, to get to a legal outcome the input costs – which in law remains the ‘manual labour’ of skilled professionals – can be less than before to get the same or even better results by applying legal technology.

From contract redlining, to bulk document review, to case law research, and several dozen other activities taking place across the legal field, there are savings to be made through the use of technology. Those savings may be passed on. They may be retained. But they are there, nonetheless.

All well and good. In fact, that all seems so matter of fact, so practically right, that one wonders how this can be radical at all. And yet, stand up at a partners meeting at a major law firm and start to talk about how legal tech can rapidly reduce the cost of legal services and you will see some nervous looks. The reality of the time-based legal economy and its ‘inadvertent manual inefficiency creates profits’ scenario will soon raise its head.

Likewise, inhouse teams, while professing a strong interest for leveraging tech to drive cost savings, such as via CLM systems, will soon get uncomfortable if you ask them why they still pay for time when it comes to external legal services.

In short, cultural habits overwhelm the practical realities of what legal tech can do, and if we accept the survey results, what it’s actually there for.

We don’t have space or time now to get into the inevitable move to fixed fees, the end of the billable hour for most work types, and a massive increase in the use of tech in legal processes that combine with this more suitable methodology. But, that has to be the future. It may take 10 years. It may even take fifty years. But, it will come, as sure as steam engines came, and then ICE automobiles, and then electric vehicles.

It’s clear that many of us involved in legal tech exist in a world of powerful cognitive dissonance (i.e. where a belief system or expectation clashes with the realities of the world we experience). But that is where we are, and it’s not that uncommon. In human society what ‘is’ and what ‘should be’ are often very far apart. But, that’s how history is made: getting from what is to what should be.

P.S. there is implicitly here an access to justice aspect as well. If tech can reduce the cost of legal production then it allows prices for legal goods to come down (of course, only if the producers pass on the cost savings). That could give more access and we are seeing some great genAI projects there already, see Contend for example.

The Other Answers

Let’s take a quick look at the other answers.

  • To help lawyers make more money – this site assumed that would be the most popular choice. And why not use tech to make more money? Law firms are businesses that seek to make as much profit as possible. Inhouse lawyers – like all employees – would like a pay rise for improving their team’s performance. Yet, it didn’t get that many votes. That is indeed curious and needs additional consideration.
  • To provide jobs to ex-lawyers – this was clearly tongue in cheek, but did allude to one awful possibility, i.e. that the whole thing is a boondoggle for privileged people and doesn’t really have any greater purpose than that. I.e. There may be lots of virtuous commentary about efficiency and the like, but really it may all just be something you do when Big Law doesn’t work out. It’s nice to see that this view was the least voted for.
  • Give lawyers more convenience – this came second with 20% of the vote. One could argue that convenience won’t be a game-changer, it won’t really change anything that matters on a socio-economic level. Lawyers will just be a little bit more comfortable as they do their work. But, don’t we all love some convenience in our lives? Cannot legal tech companies make a lot of money selling convenience? Well, yes and yes. But, on a wider, historical scale it’s not really that important. So, it was also good to see that the survey results didn’t show this as the primary goal.


It’s really heartening to see that in both the LinkedIn and the Twitter survey, reducing the cost of legal services came out clearly as the winner. Those results may of course have been influenced by the fact that many of the voters are readers of Artificial Lawyer, which is campaigning for systemic change in the legal market. But, even so, it shows support for this direction. If Artificial Lawyer were considering becoming a politician then this site would see these results as very positive hustings.

What next? As noted, legal tech exists in a world of cognitive dissonance. Even if our purpose is clear, and so too our way to get to where we want to be, the journey is going to be very long and there is much to do before we arrive. But, overall, there is one message here: where there is a will, there is a way, and clearly many people see a world where legal tech has a positive systemic effect.  

Richard Tromans, Founder, Artificial Lawyer, May 2024

If you found this topic of interest then come along to Legal Innovators California conference– on June 4 + 5 in San Francisco. The event will take place at the CJM, 736 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103 and is across two days. 

For ticket information, please see here.

Take part in what will be a great event in San Francisco, focused on how the legal world is changing. Plus, you’ll get to meet the people and organisations right at the heart of this market evolution – and what a great group they are! See you there!