I did my first legal internship in junior college, a year before I applied for law school. Prior to that, I did not have much of an impression of the legal industry. When I completed the internship, I remember telling my father that I was surprised that the work that lawyers did was incredibly human-centric and that they do not need much technology to assist them, other than basic legal search engines and word processors. My personal experience resonated with the impressions most people have of the legal industry – that it was dull, unexciting, and conservative.
Things are different now. The advent of COVID-19 and remote working forced the legal industry to change for the better, and probably forever. Law firms were forced to use to learn and incorporate technology, move their systems and documents online, upload data onto the clouds, among a slew of other changes they had to make to how their companies were operating. The need to digitize the legal industry becomes more pressing than ever, in the current climate of a volatile and uncertain future. It is expected that the coming decade will see an acceleration in the growth of legal tech startups and a boom in investments in this industry.
Before we jump into a greater detail about legal tech in further articles, we must unpack the meaning of the term ‘legal tech’, which refers to a great deal of things. People tend to throw this term around without knowing that there are different dimensions to it. At its core, legal tech just refers to the use of software or technology that can assist in the provision of legal services. Legal tech can refer to how technology can help the legal industry in the way that they do business – which is the uncontroversial side of legal tech, a side that lawyers welcome. More recently, legal tech has been controversially employed to disrupt the legal industry. Disrupting the legal industry using AI and software has the potential to eradicate the livelihoods of lawyers and change the way law is being practiced in society right now.
What we know now is that legal tech is that it is here to stay. Aspiring lawyers now know that technology can replace some of the job responsibilities that lawyers have, such as research and drafting work typically given to junior lawyers. The job market in the legal space will become more competitive, and aspiring lawyers must prove their employability in ways that can set them apart from computers as we are lucky that we have not reached a stage where we cannot distinguish one from the other.