The Italian Legal Tech Scene: Where Tradition Meets Innovation

By Marco Imperiale.

With over 240,000 lawyers and a profound history in the legal realm, (don’t forget most of the civil law we deal with comes from Roman law), Italy is a country where the passion for the legal field is palpable. As we delve into the Italian legal tech scene, it becomes evident that we are dealing with a domain as rich and complex as Italy’s renowned legal tradition itself. Yet, describing its legal tech environment to an international audience presents unique challenges due to its distinct nature and pace of technological adoption, which are markedly different from those observed in the UK or US.

Current State of Italian Legal Tech

In Italy, the legal tech startup ecosystem is nascent yet vibrant, comprising slightly fewer than 100 startups engaged in various fields such as contract lifecycle management (CLM), document automation, privacy and GDPR compliance, legal research, and digital forensics.

However, the collective revenue of these ventures remains modest, an aggregate under 50 million euros, underscoring a market that is still in its infancy.

The law firm landscape in Italy tells a similar story of cautious experimentation. While the Italian offices of UK or US law firms often adopt international software solutions and bear the cost of implementation in specific countries to maintain consistency across borders, only a handful of Italian top-tier firms are integrating tech platforms or innovating independently.

The majority of lawyers, mostly from boutique and solo practices, display sporadic engagement in legal tech. If we take into account that experiments are mainly driven by individual practitioners or small groups of lawyers, it is difficult to speak about a widespread movement.

The corporate sector mirrors the cautious approach seen in law firms. With almost 80% of Italian businesses classified as SMEs, even the presence of in-house legal counsel is not standard. Moreover, multinational companies typically implement a global tech strategy that often sidelines the unique needs or voices of Italian offices, barring notable exceptions.

Barriers to Adoption

Several factors contribute to the slow uptake of legal tech in Italy. Among them, the intricacies of the civil law system (from contracts to judicial opinions, the amount of variability among different documents is quite impressive), the language (Italian is spoken as a main language only in Italy), a strict Code of Ethics for lawyers, a general reluctance to digital transformation, and a frequent lack of financial resources – according to the Italian Lawyers’ Pension Fund (Cassa Forense), more than 40% of Italian lawyers report annual revenues under 20,000 euros.

All these factors create a challenging environment for widespread tech adoption. Additionally, a perceived lack of necessity and a traditionalist outlook further hinder progress.

Despite these challenges, the landscape is gradually shifting. The post-pandemic emergence of platforms like ChatGPT and the increased interest in generative AI have spurred reflection among legal professionals about the value they deliver to clients. This reflective trend is supported by initiatives from local Bar Councils and National Lawyers Organisations, alongside an increase in legal tech education offerings from universities and private providers.

The Future of Italian Legal Tech

Looking ahead, the question of what the future holds for Italian legal tech is indeed worth a million dollars.

One might predict the rise of platforms uniquely tailored to the Italian or broader Continental European context. However, predictions in the legal tech field may be dangerous. What we can see for now is that – while the Italian legal tech scene currently presents an embryonic phase -, the increasing curiosity and engagement with AI and other technologies indicate a vibrant and transformative future.

As Italy continues to balance its rich legal heritage with new technological possibilities, it stands on the cusp of potentially significant breakthroughs in how legal services are delivered and experienced.

About The Author: Marco Imperiale is the Founder and Managing Director of Better Ipsum, a consulting company focusing on legal design, legal innovation, and legal well-being.

Marco is also a mediator, a mindfulness trainer, and a long-time advocate of innovation and well-being in the profession.