Legal tech: what aspiring lawyers really need to know

Four experts go beyond the buzzwords to examine the real impact the technology is having on the legal industry

In the latest edition of Legal Cheeks Secrets to Success series, conducted in partnership with the University of Law (ULaw), a panel of lawyers and legal technology experts tried to go beyond the buzzwords and break the hype to explain how technical innovations are really affecting the legal industry. And perhaps more importantly, what it means for young professionals.

The speakers

Nishant Prasad, Associate at Nivaura and future trainee at Allen & Overy
Alex Malt, Hub Innovation Manager at Norton Rose Fulbright
Laura Nelson, Professional Assistance Attorney on the Squire Patton Boggs Labor and Employment Team
Simon George, ULaw Associate Professor and Director of the Tech Research Academy ULTRA

What do internal tech hubs mean for future trainees?

The panel was asked to consider expanding law firm technology centers and what impact this might have on trainees. Many city outfits have set up internal tech labs, including Allen & Overy (A&O), which was one of the first to do so when it launched Fuse in 2017. Nishant Prasad, a future apprentice at A&O, was introduced for the first time. the company of the magic circle through his role at Nivaura – a tech start-up and resident of the Fuse Hub. Having had the opportunity to mentor four A&O trainees on posting in Nivaura, Prasad was confident that in-house tech hubs would be “a good way to add staff within the firm” as “lawyers and staff become part of the innovation cycle”. “.

Alex Malt of Norton Rose Fulbright stated that interacting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes “more likely” as attorneys want to automate certain legal tasks such as paper-heavy disclosure exercises. Laura Nelson, a professional assistance attorney at Squire Patton Boggs (SPB), agreed and spoke of the automated programs that trainees might come across at SPB, such as “new software that deals with contract automation” that businesses are making possible To make contracts more efficient. While automation technology will ultimately reduce billable hours for this type of work, Nelson is confident that customers will still be willing to pay for “analytical and strategic advice.”

Learn more about Studied SQE at ULaw

With the increasing use of Legal Tech, will students be expected to familiarize themselves with the concepts before starting an apprenticeship contract? Simon George, Associate Professor at ULaw Moorgate and Director of the Tech Research Academy ULTRA, emphasized that while Legal Tech is not part of the upcoming Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), corporate law firms are likely to seek interns with in-depth knowledge. . “Legal technology is usually the hot topic in business and commercial law firms,” George said to 400 students. Therefore, prospective lawyers should understand the basics of legal technology before an apprenticeship contract interview.

Break down keywords: blockchain and smart contracts

While the legal market is certainly adapting to new technologies, the inclusion of blockchain in legal practice may still be a long way off. As a decentralized database that provides security and accessibility, it is possible that this distributed ledger technology could make transactions more secure. Malt noted, however, that “a large part of the governance and mechanisms in the legal structures presuppose the old order”. It would take a lot of work, he suggested, to completely overhaul this system. Still, he pointed out that the recent introduction of the legal scheme for digital documents by state-backed LawtechUK is a step in the right direction for smart contracts, as the goal is to turn legal documents into data that can be read by computers. This open source initiative means that these self-executing contracts based on the blockchain network are more likely.

But law firms are slow to change, George said, as lawyers are “trained to avoid risks.” Prior to the pandemic, “less than half of law firms were working in the cloud” for fear of customer hacking and data breaches. “If the cloud is not your main base, you will have difficulty taking advantage of the other technological innovations,” argued George. The accelerated deployment of cloud-based systems in response to the pandemic could therefore have a positive impact on the speed with which law firms are adopting new technologies such as smart contracts.

Will the future of law be completely virtual?

After the Covid restrictions were lifted this week, many are still wondering whether technological advances coupled with the success of home working will mean the end of the office life as we know it. “Technical work is one thing, but the human perspective is another,” said Nelson. She acknowledged that while technology can support an enduring home office model, the lack of human interaction is an issue. Malt agreed, seeing the fact that “people get lonely” is the biggest disadvantage of a fully virtual work environment. He spoke positively of the popular hybrid model scenario and believes that after the pandemic, the opportunity to work in an office a few days a week will be promoted as a perk.

Learn more about Studied SQE at ULaw

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