In a Digital Age and Economy, the Most Successful Law Firms and Lawyers Will Be the Ones That Form a Collaborative Relationship with Technology to Aid and Serve Clientele
Author’s note: Upon completing my first year of law school, and taking a class at the University of Miami School of Law called The Future of Law Practice, I thought it would be appropriate to post a blog on how I see the legal industry evolving, as a result of technology, in the years to come.
The legal industry is no longer immune from the rapid adoption of technology and its broad forces that are driving industry-wide change. Many lawyers are resistant to this technological change because of the unpredictability that follows in the legal industry. This resistant perspective by lawyers must be shifted for the long-term survival of the legal industry. Lawyers must be willing to collaborate with technology and keep an open-to-growth and open-to-change mindset to receive the compounding benefits.
In Tomorrow’s Lawyers, author Richard Susskind predicts that in the coming two decades, the way in which lawyers work will acutely change, and the traditional businesses that fail to adapt will consequently not survive. Traditional lawyers may not be enthusiastic about change, but with the mass adoption of technology, they may not have a choice to survive. On the surface, lawyers and technology may be frenemies, but to endure and succeed in a digital age, they must become collaborators.
Technology will not replace lawyers, but, rather, it will change how lawyers conduct their business and professional tasks. Many lawyers, though, do not agree with this perspective. It is evident that there is a generational gap between lawyers, which has contributed to a divided sentiment relating to the collaboration with technology. The older generation of lawyers, who are more conservative by nature, are slow to embrace technology for a plethora of reasons. Many lawyers are afraid of being replaced by technology and spending large amounts of money and resources investing in technology that turns out to be a disappointment. Unlike the younger generation of lawyers that have welcomed technology’s opportunities and have intuitively adopted technology to bear on pursuing their client’s best interest, the seasoned generation of lawyers, generally, have been averse to technology’s adoption.
The Blockchain Cometh
Lawyer’s collaboration with and leveraging of technology is a fiber of the digital age professional fabric. Though pushback may ensue, the superior advantages of technology integrated into the legal industry cannot be dismissed. Such technology including, but not limited to, blockchain technology and smart contracts present opportunities to expand legal access and better understand, service, and anticipate client needs. Blockchain technology will allow for increased accessibility, transparency, cost savings, automation, and data integrity. Blockchain technology will simplify transactional work and limit the time spent preparing legal documents. The reduction in time allocated to drafting and amending legal documents will result in the reduction of costs to the law firm, ultimately cutting costs for the bottom-line customer. As a result, millions of citizens and small businesses would gain access to legal assistance and representation where they are now being priced out of the legal market.
Furthermore, distributed ledger or blockchain technology will allow for the increased transparency of legal documents, as all the parties of the agreement will have access to the shared ledger. Blockchain will time stamp events and provide proof of the existence of a legal document at a specific time. Blockchain will provide concrete evidence of the creation, first use, and rights management of intellectual property and will help to maintain accurate and real-time title records of property. Finally, blockchain technology and smart contracts will contribute to more efficient legal documentation via automation. It is stated that lawyers spend up to 48% of their time on administrative tasks, and blockchain will offer firms a useful and easily integrated technology to automate many of those tasks. With the automation of documents, lawyers can devote the time that used to be dedicated to routine work to advanced strategizing and decision making for more clients. Many lawyers are concerned that automated technology will replace them and/or ultimately eliminate or dwindle their billable hours; but, this is not likely in the foreseeable future. In fact, such technology will work in synergy with the lawyer.
With automation, it is expected that nothing will go wrong; but, of course, this is not always the case and lawyers will need to step in to resolve disputes that arise. Furthermore, as Dorna Moini mentioned in her lecture to our class at the University of Miami School of Law, since consumer demands are changing, technology and its automation may provide more business for lawyers from consumers who could not afford legal assistance prior to. She said, “billable hours are not going away… [if anything,] billable hours are a cap on lawyers’ salaries.” Moreover, according to a recent study of 20 corporate law firms by Documate, the company found that the use of automation and selling online workflows increased the revenue generated from first step incorporation work by 210% in the first two months. With automation technology, consumers will have increased access to obtaining legal services and law firms will have more opportunities to gain new clientele and increase revenue streams.
The Future is Now
Technology has started to play a vital role in the legal industry, but it is only just the beginning. Although many lawyers are resistant to technological and industry change, law firms should consider and educate themselves on the benefits that technology can offer, including greater accessibility, a higher quality of legal services, and lower costs. Educating lawyers on the advantages of blockchain technology in practice, among other technologies, is crucial. Firms should consider accessing resources, such as the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, to aid their technological education. In a digital age and economy, the most successful firms will be the ones that form a symbiotic relationship with technology to aid and serve clientele. The demise of the traditional legal culture is upon us, but the birth of a new legal culture integrated with technology is emerging with much opportunity for lawyers that choose to collaborate with technology.
Disclaimer: cryptocurrencies are risky and volatile investments. These comments above should not be perceived as investment advice.
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Jordana Cohen, Writer and Associate, Alpha Sigma Capital
Jordana joined Alpha Sigma Capital in November 2020 as writer and associate. She is currently a law student at the University of Miami School of Law. Jordana graduated magna cum laude from Tulane University with a business major in finance and a minor in Spanish. In addition to her academic accomplishments, she has substantive experience in management and marketing endeavors through her establishment of several start-up events to fundraise for pediatric cancer research. Alpha Sigma Capital is a pioneering digital asset fund that invests in growth companies, private and public equity, mergers and acquisitions, and special situations. Alpha Sigma Capital believes in a fundamental research approach for investing and supporting the blockchain economy; and, it is rigorous in determining the value of such organizations.