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17 February 2017 at 09:44 BST

Lawyers still needed in the machine world, Law Society reassures

The human touch will be critical for future success despite the legal sector embracing disruptive technologies.

Willyam Bradberry

A Law Society report Capturing Technological Innovation predicts that the leading legal service providers across all sectors will embrace innovation as part of their ‘corporate DNA’ but that understanding the business, putting the client first and marrying that understanding with technology is what will make for success.

Technology  - an enabler not an alternative

The author of the research, Dr Tara Chittenden, found widespread support for technology as an enabler not an alternative:

“Interviewees felt it was more important to augment the experts with technological systems, rather than replace them.”

Client focus is key

Client focus should remain the priority for firms urged the report, which explained: ‘Legal technologies… offer exciting possibilities for how legal processes might evolve or be reinvented for the future. But such technologies… are [not] a fix for struggling business models and outdated processes.

“Instead, the better approach often comes from a close tracking of client needs and expectations, followed by identification of how technology can help a firm better serve these needs.”

Need to understand business issues

Perhaps, as a warning to some, the report found that technology in and of itself did not make a company innovative  - and that really it was understanding business issues and how technology can play a role in assisting the lawyers that would determine success.

‘…the lawyer must understand processes, how to improve them, and when to add technology’, the report said.

Transform old models

However, it the study predicted that technology would transform legal practice from old models and that business applications that include workflow automation will go well beyond that to incorporate support for the human cognitive processes as part of the overall business environment.

Legal sector slow to adapt

Interestingly, while three-quarters of firms surveyed agreed that innovation was critical to exploit opportunities and differentiate their firms, more than half said they were more likely to wait for others to pioneer new technologies.


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