Technology is transforming the information landscape and rapidly changing the workplace.
The generally conservative legal industry has in no way been spared, with new technologies and innovations disrupting – and enabling – the practice of law, demanding that law firms and in-house legal teams transform the way they operate in order to meet new workplace and client demands.
For a number of years digital search tools have aided the legal practitioner’s productivity by offering improved legal research, referencing and collaboration technology. But today, newer concepts like artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud, automation, augmentation, blockchain and smart contracts are also becoming more mainstream.
Leading law firms are implementing AI solutions to deal with exhaustive and voluminous legal paperwork that is normally assigned to paralegals and junior associates. With this potential, the question is – can legal technology ever completely replace people?
Billy Last, CEO of content and software solutions provider, LexisNexis South Africa, says that while new technology is exciting, it should never overshadow the fact that law is an industry built around people.
“The field of law is built on a strong foundation of respect for traditions and rules. The actual practice of law has remained essentially the same, but it is the way legal professionals work that is changing and at the heart of this is the need to adapt from what firms want to sell, to what clients want to buy,” he says.
“While robots may not be taking over the legal world any time soon, the use of AI and other new technologies is undoubtedly proving valuable for law firms who are investing in it.”
The benefit of AI and other technologies, according to Last, is that they stand to empower legal and business professionals to make more informed, data-driven decisions. “Instead of replacing lawyers, these technological advances will impact the way professionals work, and more specifically, increase their productivity, and improve decision-making and outcomes,” he says.
He adds that the cost and time-saving qualities of legal technology solutions will certainly bring about a larger, more diversified client base including new clients, who would previously have been discouraged from seeking legal advice due to the cost.
As a company that began operation in South Africa more than 80 years ago, LexisNexis has been intimately involved in the technological journey of the legal profession.