A new 116-page report released this morning by the Law Society has warned that firms will need to embrace new legal technologies (such as machine learning, AI and contract management software) if they are to remain competitive and relevant in the modern legal marketplace. Stressing that technology should be an enabler and not an alternative, the report ‘Capturing technological innovation in Legal Services’ argues that firms need to use technology to empower their own innovation efforts, rather than relying on tech tools to serve as innovation in and of themselves: ‘Technology by itself will not bring innovation to a firm. What will is a better understanding of business issues and the points where technology and business come together, and how that can be better understood and developed,’ the report reads.
Between human and machine
In the short term, report author Dr Tara Chittenden predicts that firms will continue to show enthusiasm about developments in machine learning and AI and their potential to automate workflow processes. However, the long-term vision offered by the report is one in which lawyers have embraced technology not just to better manage their workloads, but to support their own cognitive processes – their arguments, strategies and analyses.
However, respondents to the Law Society’s study were adamant that ‘the human touch’ should never be lost from the legal profession: ‘[The] lawyer must understand processes, how to improve them, and when to add technology,’ Dr Chittenden said. ‘That does not mean the lawyer must become a process improvement expert, project manager, or a technologist. It does mean that a lawyer must become conversant in the ‘tools of the trade’ and perhaps maintain a sense of empathy toward coded colleagues if legal services are not to be fully digitised, but retain a touch of humanity.’