It’s Time for a Technological Takeover in the Legal Marketplace

February 21, 2022

New technologies constantly push the boundaries of what can be achieved in a smaller amount of time. From taking notes the “old fashioned way” with a pen and paper to recording meetings which are then digitally converted to text using, technological advances have fueled the efficiency of law firms globally. Although some lawyers are quick to change, it is not uncommon to find seasoned attorneys with padfolios taking notes while their younger counterparts have fully embraced digitization in the legal market.

Law professor, attorney, and expert on the interaction between law and technology, Dr. Bruno Mascello, attributes the existing technological gap to a “gradual introduction of legal tech and AI” which he believes will proceed in seven steps. Although Dr. Mascello attributes a paradigm shift towards technology to multiple steps, I believe his seven steps are more like seven criteria necessary for technological implementation. Focusing on Dr. Mascello’s steps necessary for a digital transformation, I have expanded his thoughts into three distinct criteria for a “digital revolution” to be ripe within the US legal market.

First, digital transformation will require governmental intervention. Internationally, in the EU, the GDPR acts as a method of government exercising its authority over the digital marketplace. Various other countries around the world have implemented similar laws, and the US could be next. Given the overwhelming national support for the internet of things and demand for faster answers to legal questions, the federal government (legislative, judiciary, and executive branches) will likely institute laws which target digital challenges. Some of these challenges include data protection and cyber security, ESG concerns, and IP issues. As laws are established to combat these issues, the legal field will become open to digital development.

Second, customers and attorneys will need to demand efficiency. Since the creation of online legal databases, consumers of legal advice and attorneys alike have grown accustomed to faster and more efficient answers. As digitization increases (after challenges are addressed via governmental intervention), so will demand for efficiency from customers.

Third, as services become faster and consumer demand develops, legal departments must manage their resources appropriately. These resources will include technical support and subscription services to electronic databases and various other digital tools. Organization is critical for digitization in the legal sphere because there are so many people and places for information to get lost from paralegals and attorneys to third-party service providers across borders. Each of these criteria focus on the main drivers of development within the legal community: the government, consumers and attorneys, and the availability of reliable information. The government­—through statutes and regulations—sets standards which can open the door for new technologies to step in and fill the gaps in efficiency. Customers and attorneys demand for better services, which puts pressure on companies to create new tools to fill in the efficiency gaps. Lastly, once gaps close in reliable resource management infrastructure, technology will be able to soar in the legal field without fear of lost data and loss of efficiency.

At its core, digitization is rooted in efficiency. As new attorneys who grew up in a more digital, efficient environment enter the workforce bringing average age of lawyers down from forty-eight, demand for digitization will increase—which, in turn, will put pressure on the government and resource management to get their acts together.

This is a feedback loop–as technology changes and gets adopted, it puts pressure on the three drivers causing the whole cycle to start again and again, resulting in a better, more efficient, and more digitally savvy practice of law.

Once each of the three conditions are met, the digitization of the legal workplace will be able to spread. But, what are some of these digital tools? They can range from firm-wide management programs to individual note taking tools. For example, as efficiency and technology become increasingly important, programs to like Clio which utilizes API and other means to automate almost all aspects of a firms organization including tracking cases, calendars, and hours billed. As for tools to be used by attorneys in their everyday lives, attorneys could use software like Casetext or Ravel law which, using artificial intelligence, can find caselaw that is applicable based on an uploaded brief/document or how judges have previously ruled on similar topics. Of course, as the legal field becomes increasingly reliant upon technology, new laws will need to develop to protect consumers’ rights and privacy; consumers and lawyers will, again, demand more efficiency/automation; and law firms will have to better manage information and networks. This then feeds back into the pattern where we currently sit. As you can see, this is a feedback loop; as technology changes and gets adopted, it puts pressure on the three drivers as discussed, causing the whole cycle to start again and again, resulting in a better, more efficient, and more digitally savvy practice of law.

Jared A. Mark

Jared is a second-year law student from Raleigh, NC. He graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in Political Science in 2020. Besides writing for the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, Jared is involved with the CEProgram, Moot Court, the Conservation and Agricultural Law Federation, and his internship with the U.S. Coast Guard JAG. See Jared’s previous blog post here.