When you think of professions that utilize cutting edge technology it may be fair to say that the legal profession is likely to be quite a long way down the list. The BBC recently highlighted how some smart start-that have spotted exciting digital opportunities in this ancient profession that is about as far as paperless as you can get – allegedly. Here are some examples of technology start-up ideas that are threatening to drag the legal profession into this century and beyond.
This is a New York based online marketplace that gives business a way to select legal services based on some very important factors that would not normally be easy to access. As well as being able to face-to-face or via Skype, business users of Priori Legal can be assured that the lawyers listed on the website are vetted by the company, and they have to have 5 years of relevant practice experience and good references. Business customers can also make informed choices based on information like how often did people win, and how does that compare to the national average, as well as being able to see if a particular judge may be more biased in one way. As well as providing a means to help businesses make better decisions about legal matters it also provides a unique way to build a strategy for a case.
TrademarkNow, LegalSifter, and ContractSifter
These companies have developed tools and algorithms to help companies find their way safely through the minefield of trademark law, and the quicksand of contracts and terms. Finland’s TrademarkNow offers an AI tool for searching and managing trademarks, and Pittsburgh’s ContractSifter has built upon its experiences with the ‘LegalSifter’ algorithmic tool. Contractsifter helps companies to make sense of a large amounts of contracts and terms, while avoiding offering advice.
This provides start-wanting to expand globally with a way to easily access data about the different legal systems of different countries. This could save companies the costs of having to pay fees to access the information. It is also often the case that companies are denied this kind of access, so Docket Alarm could be a source of competitive advantage.
One technological idea that has caused the UK Law Society some serious concern is the proposal by the Judiciary of England and Wales to introduce ‘online courts’ to handle minor civil cases of up to £25,000. While the intent to use technology to automate part of the justice process and free up the physical courts may sound reasonable, the Law Society has pointed out that it could lead to discrimination based on factors such as access to IT facilities, IT literacy, and earning or language impairments. The Law Society also say that creating a two-tier system of this kind could also mean that those who can’t afford professional advice will be at an unfair disadvantage because they are forced to represent themselves.
Even though there is currently regulatory uncertainty about legal tech companies, it seems that there are already some areas where technology can be used in a value adding and beneficial way in the legal profession. In reality, though progress may be slow, this looks like a trend that can only continue as no profession can remain exempt from technology.