With COVID-19 causing disruption to much of 2020, many industries are digitally transforming to remain connected and continue operations, and the legal profession is no exception.
Lawyers on the cloud
Traditional law firms and labour models of law firms are encumbered by routine legal work and mundane day-to-day administrative tasks. For lawyers who deal with such tasks, it distracts them from the core legal matter at hand, affecting their quality of work. For clients, a law firm spending time handling “grunt work” also means that they would be billed at a costly rate, paying hundreds or thousands for what is essentially paperwork.
With the global pandemic we are facing, such inefficiencies are compounded. Thus, law firms see an urgent need to reform the traditional mode of engagement and speed up operations while adapting to the future of work. And legal tech firms found a gap in the market and filled it.
Legal tech firms such as InCloudCounsel, who recently opened their first office in the Asia Pacific region, incorporate a range of cloud computing services and artificial intelligence (AI) to assist lawyers with routine transactional work. Negotiation and management of non-disclosure agreements, vendor contracts, sales and services agreements would be handled by technology.
The outcome could be a win-win solution for all. Lawyers are no longer held back by geographical and time constraints, and petty legal matters, while clients could anticipate being billed less for routine legal work.
When lawyers offer their services on the cloud, these may be streamlined and highly tailored to your case’s needs. Perhaps the biggest advantage that legal tech firms can offer is transparency at a degree that is previously unheard of. Cloud-based case management platforms used by legal tech companies allow clients to track the progress of case negotiations in real-time — very much like tracking your parcel and waiting for it to be delivered.
These cloud platforms will then safely store the data when the case is resolved, a potentially better option than filing a case in an office folder and tucking it away in an unknown corner.
Blurring of work boundaries
Enabled by AI, some legal tech firms are also leaning towards delivering data-driven services, something that was almost impossible before the advent of cloud technology.
This year, AI made a historic, yet controversial, appearance in Malaysia’s justice system to assist in crunching data and sentencing during two drug cases. Machine learning can make a very manual process more efficient by automatically developing “mappings” between data sources and the application’s data repository. This cuts down integration and aggregation times.
Data extraction systems are able to collect and process data from hundreds of case precedents. And while IT infrastructures in legal tech firms may only be restricted to routine legal work, when an AI obtains new knowledge through large input and evolves to take on more complex tasks, to what extent will its work encroach on that of a lawyer? So, the question to ask is: Who is really doing the work here? The man or the machine?
At the same time, some standing against legal tech argue that although technology is doing more than ever before for lawyers, at the end of the day, the legal profession still needs a ‘human touch’. In other words, the law still relies on expert knowledge to interpret and apply them onto cases in order to correctly deliver justice.
Nobody has an answer to whether or not this is a good thing, but one trend that is that the job scope of lawyers is slowly being redrawn, and lawyers have to refine existing skills to keep up with the times.
The Future of Legal Tech
The legal profession is one of few fields that is relatively slow in embracing the new normal. But as COVID-19 leaves no industry unaffected, perhaps it is time for lawyers and judges to usher in change and hop onto the cloud.
The marriage between law and tech signals a need for lawyers to further diversify their skills. The entrance of, for example, data scientists, computer scientists and software engineers indicate that in-house legal professionals would perhaps need to expand their knowledge beyond law books and desktop research in order to thrive in a diverse workplace.
Lawyers not only have to interact with smart technology, but they now have to interact with other specialists across different industries. Cloud computing and AI has the potential to revolutionise the legal industry, and it is only by continually upgrading oneself that one would be able to survive in a post-pandemic digital world.
Image credit: Reuters