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Arrival of global firms is driving legal-tech adoption

12 Jan 2023 / technology Print

Arrival of global firms driving legal-tech adoption

A future legal practice seminar at Blackhall Place (11 January) has heard that digital awareness is essential for young lawyers because technology is an important disruptor in the legal industry.

The law is one of the last sectors to experience this change, the seminar heard, and trainees cannot put their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t matter.

Law school trainees attending the Blackhall Place Law School talk on innovation and technology in legal solutions were told that, while tech is a useful disruptor, it is not a magic wand that solves all client problems.

Good-quality solutions

Tech must be understood and invested in, to drive good-quality solutions for clients, the trainees heard.

 Project management and multi-disciplinary teams, supported by technology, are part of legal technology work, the seminar heard.

Eileen Burns (head of tech and legal innovation services, Arthur Cox) described to trainees how the legal privilege and skills that lawyers bring, combined with technologists who can use tools to quickly ingest data from thousands of documents, can produce ‘magic’.

Due diligence can be vastly sped up with the correct workflow technology, she added.

“You have to really think about the processes you want to run, and the data you want to extract, and the report to be delivered to the other side,” Burns explained.

Flexible staffing

Flexible staffing may be necessary, according to the scale of the operation, she said.

Lawyers need to think through the work from a process perspective, she added. A toolkit of “processes, people and technology” are required.

However, technology is not a Swiss army knife, she cautioned, and different projects required tailored solutions.

“Become a digitally-savvy lawyer,” Burns urged the trainees. “It’s better for you, it’s better for your career, and it will serve your clients better,” she said.

She added that Irish law firms were recognising the need to change their work practices.

Alternative providers

“The industry knows that things are changing,” she said, and alternative legal-services providers were now being brought into projects to make them more affordable for clients.

“All the ‘magic circle’ firms in the UK are doing this,” she said, and the outsourcing of legal processes was now common in that jurisdiction.

Large corporate bodies were also, themselves, setting up legal operations teams, with the outsourcing of work to Mauritius and India, Eileen Burns commented.

C-suite tension

Chris Murnane (legal solutions architect, Johnson Hana) agreed that there might be tension from senior management, in that outsourced legal processes could be seen as a threat to traditional business models.

Law firms might make less money if work were completed more quickly, but international law firms coming into Dublin would force the change, the seminar heard.

“Everyone who is not quite on board yet will be forced to catch up with that,” Chris Murnane commented.

The partnership model of extracting monetary value may run counter to investing in technology, which is an underlying problem, Murnane added.

Tech focused

Many large clients in Dublin were also highly sophisticated and tech focused, he observed. “They want [lawyers] in every aspect to be using as much technology as possible … they want you to be seen to use it,” he commented.

Clients must be met at whatever technological level they are at, however, and large organisations for instance, might prefer to outsource rather than go through long internal spending-approval processes.

“To the extent that they are unable to do things internally, that’s when a legal solutions provider can say ‘give it to us and we’ll hand back the project at the end’,” Burns said.

This enables some clients to get used to technically enabled processes, without having to invest in tech themselves.

Regulatory or other pressing demands will often drive these decisions, making it simpler and easier to outsource, rather than deal internally with a large legal project.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland