LegalTech fighters

By Rachel Kessel Legal Tech & Design Fellow, ACJI / Chief Examiner, Legal Tech Studio

Artificial Intelligence (AI). Automation. Blockchain. Cybersecurity. Data Privacy. Design thinking. Driverless cars. Drones. Encryption. Facial recognition. Fake news… The A to Z of modern technology issues is growing exponentially. For example AI contributed a whopping $2 trillion to the global GDP last year, and it is predicted to rise to $15.7 trillion by 2030. With increasingly complex developments across all aspects of technology, the question for our justice system is whether our laws and lawyers will be able to keep pace with the changes.

For the average lawyer this overwhelming influx of technology can generate one of two responses: fight or flight.

 

The fighters

For the NewLaw fighters, there is a firm push to engage, experiment and learn how to leverage LegalTech to seize the latest opportunities. There is no shying away from the difficulties involved in achieving a workable, interdisciplinary understanding.  Some are fired up to confront what’s out there and keep one step ahead. This includes embracing the burgeoning LegalTech community who are members of the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation (ACJI) and engage in productive conversations via social media or special interest groups. It also includes attending events such as the ‘Innovation in Legal Practice Summit’ hosted by the Centre for Legal Innovation at the College of Law on Friday 9 August.

The Summit was an arena for academics, lawyers, legal business professionals, LegalTech developers, data scientists, data analysts, HR, finance and marketing professionals to come together. There were 38 presenters, 7 sessions and 10 “ask the expert” pop up sessions. Attendees gained insight into:

  • Legal Design Thinking and collaboration
  • Understanding the client experience and journey mapping
  • Case studies in the new regime for risk management, compliance and RegTech
  • The impact of blockchain on the legal industry (and others)
  • Creating an R and D function and disruptive new legal enterprises in law firms/in-house legal departments
  • Changing mindset, culture and embedding resilience in legal practice

Participants were put in touch with their creativity with a hands-on collaboration workshop led by Nyk Loates of KPMG who provided a glimpse into the ‘what ifs’ of the future. Various ideas changing the legal industry were discussed such as the rise in freelancing specialist lawyers being recruited on-demand to work in co-sharing facilities or from home. Client-intake tasks being fully automated. Legal documents being auto-generated with a simple voice command. Contracts self-executing. Blockchain being used for a variety of applications to ensure decentralised security. Online dispute resolution and robo-judges becoming the majority of decision-makers.

The Summit was also an opportunity to ‘step into the ring’ and ‘play’ with new LegalTech (as demonstrated by exhibitors such as Checkbox.ai, Josef and Contract probe). Evan Wong, CEO of Checkbox, called up an audience member, Jennie Pakula, Manager, Innovation and Consumer Engagement at Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner to participate in a world-first, live demonstration of how to use Checkbox. With the pressure of a 20 minute live counter ticking down, Jennie was able to build, test and deploy a completely automated NDA app with tips and autocompleted fields from scratch, despite only discovering Checkbox moments before! In the final seconds the wifi dropped in and out, but moments before the buzzer sounded, Jennie executed the app and was met with a huge round of applause.

 

Taking flight

For ‘old school’ lawyers (who were not at attendance at this Summit) taking flight is a common fear-based reaction. Any modification to ‘the way things have always been done’ is avoided as the status quo is comfortable. Precedents are followed. For example, naysayers may have dismissed Online Dispute Resolution as a passing fad. Yet Ebay settles 60 million disputes per year online and there is a push to transfer these principles to the UK civil court system for claims under 25,000 pounds. While many legal professionals continue to place their faith in centuries of tradition where justice is seen to be done in a bricks and mortar courtroom, there are many new technologically-enhanced pathways to the legal practice on the horizon.

 

The legal profession at a crossroads

The question for members of ACJI is whether to take flight or join the fight to engage with the latest legal technologies. There is a dynamic tension that still exists between traditional blackletter lawyers and futurists. Navigating ambiguity can understandably be stressful. Arming ourselves with new knowledge about the LegalTech market is an exercise in itself because of the rapid rate of digital transformation. Whilst directions may keep swerving and changing, ‘LegalTech fitness’ is about upskilling and practical experimentation to avoid any unexpected industry knockout.

For Monash Masters of Law, JD students and lawyers wanting to enrol as an accredited Continuing Professional Development course, LAW5650 – Legal Tech Studio is being offered from 25 Oct to 22 Nov 2019. This unit will bring industry practitioners and LegalTech experts inside the classroom to prepare participants for the realities of NewLaw practice.

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