Technology and the Law: An Overview of the Impact of Technology in the Legal Sector

Introduction

Technology was once a concept that does not affect the law and the practice of law. In recent times however, the relationship between both sectors cannot be overlooked by members of the legal profession. Both law and technology are now intertwined to the extent that the enhancement of the legal sector cannot be discussed without acknowledging the impact that technology will make in achieving such enhancement.

Technology has transformed the legal sector and its ancient mode of practice. Lots of legal work that consumes the time and efforts of lawyers are being done in a much faster way thereby giving lawyers ample time to focus on other tasks. The massive effect of technology has led to the emergence of the term ‘Legal Technology’ (also known as Legal Tech).

Legal Technology

“Legal technology” essentially means the use of technology and software to provide and aid legal services.[I]

In broader terms, it represents the set of technologies that-

  • Eases the practice of law for attorneys and legal professionals, and [ii]
  • Enables customers access legal competence or justice.[iii]

The rise of technology is indeed influencing modern legal practice, and as such, the uses of legal technology increases on a daily basis.

The Impact of Technology in the Legal Sector

Technology has made an impact in the way lawyers perform their activities especially in recent times.

Some of these impact are:

Virtual Law Offices

The COVID-19 Pandemic has led to the rise in the use of technology as an alternative method of carrying out our daily activities. As a result of the pandemic, technological innovations and inventions have been embraced by all.

As an alternative, most law firms have resorted to managing their offices online. They draft documents, interact with fellow employees, and meet with clients virtually without physical interactions. Conference meetings  and all other activities are carried out virtually with the help of technology.

Virtual Court Proceedings

This also gained wide acceptance as a result of the pandemic. The judiciary is one important aspect of people’s lives. In order to ensure access to justice, Virtual Court hearings was adopted by many countries during the pandemic. Some Courts also permit lawyers to file legal documents through electronic means.

Electronic Legal Research

Legal practitioners now use different online legal platforms in carrying out research instead of going through huge volumes of books to check for cases, laws, and so on. Technology has made it easier for lawyers to access whatever they need in a much faster way without having to go through stress. Most law firms now have electronic law libraries for the ease of research.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Legal practitioners who specialize in ADR now use technology in facilitating dispute resolution between parties.

Online Dispute Resolution involves Arbitration, Mediation, and Negotiation. Most of the processes are carried out using video conferencing, emails, and other means of communication. The use of ODR saves time of both the lawyers and parties involve, and it also reduces cost.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI has gained relative importance in the legal sector. The rapid development of AI has changed how things are done in the legal sector.

AI aid lawyers in making legal research, case prediction, contract review and due diligence, documents automation, and so on.

AI systems like the ‘ROSS Intelligence’, and Chatbots like ‘DoNotPay’ now carry out tasks effectively.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is an emerging technology that is paving its way into the legal profession. If fully adopted, the technology can provide a lot of solutions to legal problems. The blockchain technology can be used to execute smart contract, record public documents, and above all increase transparency. Blockchain also assist real estate lawyers in the tokenization of assets. That way assets are granted digital recognition and ownership of such assets are secured.

Importance of Technology in the Legal Sector

Easy Research and Time Management

Different technological tools are used by lawyers in carrying out research have made things easier. Research works that consume lots of time and effort are now performed in a much faster and efficient manner. Analysis and contract review can be done in few minutes. Cases are now easier to access. This helps in keeping lawyers updated with changes in the laws and regulations within their jurisdictions. With the assistance of these research techniques, lawyers  now have the time to become more effective.

Limitation/Reduction of Errors in Legal Documents

The use of technology in drafting and reviewing documents reduces the risks of making errors. AI can easily track errors unlike humans, and this makes it more preferable. By having few chances of errors in legal documents, both lawyers and their clients are satisfied thereby, increasing the quality of services offered by lawyers.

Increases Transparency

Technology assist lawyers in becoming transparent with their clients. Legal technology allows clients to know how much fees they have to pay and the day-to-day progress of the lawyer on their case.[iv] They also show clients information in a precise and concise manner.[v] This helps in promoting the relationship between lawyers and their clients, and also assist them in gaining the trust of clients.

Enhances the Efficiency and Productivity of Lawyers

Technology helps lawyers in becoming very productive and efficient. Lawyers can work and complete their tasks regardless of where they are. This makes it easier to carry out tasks. Meetings can be held virtually at their comfort and they can share files and work on them virtually.

Enhances Global Reputation

As the law firms have grown in size and expanded the geographical reach of their services, computer-based systems have provided the mechanisms for coordinating and controlling their operations.[v] Technology therefore, assist law firms that are trying to gain international prominence in achieving their aims.

Factors that Hinder the Adoption of Technology in the Legal Sector

Resistance of Some Lawyers and the Lack of Understanding

Some lawyers are not in support of the adoption of technology due to the lack of understanding of its own benefits. However, some lawyers are aware of the benefits but are rather, resistant to changes. They prefer to continue with the traditional methods of legal practice.

Lack of Access to Internet/Poor Internet

The lack of access to Internet and poor Network in some countries is a very big challenge to the adoption of legal technology.

Financial Problems

The finances required in adopting technology in legal practice is costly, and this makes it hard to adopt. That is why some law firms and other areas of the legal profession decided to overlook the impact of technology and continue with what they are used to.

Cyber Security

The threat of hacking and cyber theft can affect the use of technology in the legal profession. Informations of clients may be at risk and this helps in casting doubt into the minds of lawyers with regards to the adoption of technology.

Conclusion

The adoption of technology in the legal sector is inevitable because lawyers deal with people on a daily basis. These people are adopting technology into their daily activities, and this makes it a must for lawyers to embrace technology.

Also, technological innovations provide the means for sustainable legal practice. The need for traditional lawyering is fading with time thus, leaving us with no option but to embrace technology in order to remain relevant in the legal profession.

Halima Ummi Ismail is a law student from Bayero University, Kano.

She can be contacted via

ismailhalima99@gmail.com

Endnotes

i.‘What Is Legal Technology And How Is It Changing Our Industry?’,(2019), https://www.thelawyerportal.com/blog/what-is-legal-tech-and-how-is-it-changing-industry/ accessed 5 December 2020
ii. ‘What’s the Role of Technology in the Legal Sector?’,(2020), https://appinventiv.com/blog/technology-in-legal-sector/amp/ accessed 5 December 2020
iii ibid
iv Varnika Agarwal ‘What is the Importance of Legal Technology Legal Profession?’,(2020), https://legodesk.com/blog/legal-practice/importance-of-legal-technology/ accessed 5 December 2020
v. ibid
vi. Supra note iv

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