Filling the Technology Gap in the Legal Sector : Investment is Key

This article is part 1 of 3.

The adoption of technology in the legal sector remains less developed than in other fields (where funding and regulatory alignment are more advanced) and LawTech still has a relatively low penetration rate across all segments of the law. 

Even in big law, where adoption is most advanced, it is used in a relatively small proportion of client work. Pressure to adopt lawtech is building and there are an increasing a number of factors that promote this: the need for greater efficiency; increasing workloads and complexity of work; the evolving demographic mix of lawyers toward younger and more ‘tech savvy’ personnel and, most importantly, greater client pressure on costs and speed.  

Yet in the ‘age of denial’, during which law firms and UK legal institutions ignored the rise of AI and the possibilities it offered, has come to an end. With it comes the realization of both how much of a challenge and an opportunity technology represents, and of legal professionals’ lack of preparation for it. While investing more than ever in innovation and new technologies, law firms should also focus on the adoption of that technology. 

This means addressing the lack of technological skills by investing time in the technology training of both senior and junior staff, which is why the Legal Technology and Innovation Certificate (LTIC) was created to bring a breadth of understanding and engagement to legal practitioners around the world to enable them to engage fully with all relevant technology. 

In our threefold article, Filling the Technology Gap in the Legal Sector, we analyze the current landscape of the technology gap in the legal sector, starting with the importance of major investment.

There has been a historical lack of IT investment in the legal sector, where the pace of technological innovation and adoption has been slower than in other service industries such as banking. Yearly spending as a percentage of fee income has been significantly lower than seen in other sectors. This is partly because many law firms see themselves first as practices rather than businesses and are often not structured to free up the same level of capital available for investment in things like IT. 

The Law Society’s Lawtech Adoption Research from 2019 shows that investors and lawtech companies consider that while the funding environment for lawtech in the UK is increasing, it remains nominal in comparison to fintech or insurtech.   

This is even more striking when we know that the UK leads Europe in the adoption of the legal technology market and the United States is surprisingly lagging behind on the adoption of legal technology. Asia, a region known for some of the world’s most innovative technology companies and tech-savvy populations, has also been somewhat slow to adopt legal technology, though some Asian legal markets such as Singapore started to make headway in 2019. 

In Latin America, however, even if LegalTech is less advanced than in the US and in Europe the region’s adoption of legal technology is growing fast because of the launch of several financial technology initiatives and legislation on data protection.

Despite this, there remain some significant structural barriers within the legal services market with law firms broadly wedded to their ‘billable hour’ and partnership structures, limiting change. Both in-house legal departments and IT departments in law firms are viewed as cost centres where they can come off second best to ‘core operations’ when it comes to investment budgets. 

The risk is that there is significant “technical debt” building up in a number of law firms, whereby under investment in technology is resulting in a lack of capability that means proportionately larger future investment will be needed.Thus, law firms and legal departments need to invest significantly in technology. 

The investment necessary to embrace legal technology goes beyond financial investment and extends to investment of time and other resources. Although investment in technology is a new area of spending for legal professionals and taking the time to invest in technology adoption often means time lost on casework, especially for small firms and solo practitioner, legal professionals need to see things in the long run: these types of costs are short-lived and investment will be rewarding in the long-term. 

Financial investment will help legal professionals obtain the technology they need, but only time will allow them to adopt it: one significant area is through education and training. 

The role of the Legal Technology and Innovation Certificate (LTIC)

The Legal Technology and Innovation Certificate (LTIC) will enable legal professionals to engage fully with all relevant technology. Its aim is precisely to address the lack of information, understanding and training of legal professionals not only by equipping them with the right skill set, but also by offering the experience of its implementation.  
 
Indeed, the course, heavily focused on hands-on practicals, will enable participants to deep dive into real use cases aimed at bridging the gap between theory and practice to enable the participants to acquire substantial hands-on skills across a broad range of technologies. 
 
The LTIC covers all the key areas of technology relevant to legal professionals, including those which were found to need the most training, such as Big Data & Analytics, Cyber Security, Blockchain, eDiscovery, and many more. 
 
Unrestricted by geography, the LTIC will help create a global legal technology community to house discussions and allow faculty and international participants to connect and expand their network. The LTIC will also constitute a platform enabling access to a universal ecosystem, whereby you have a global faculty comprising some of the best legal and technology experts.  
 
This international presence will be supported by global partners across Law Societies, Bar Associations, technology firms and academia, which will help towards building global coverage and taking a huge step in establishing a global benchmark in learning. 

The LTIC will be launching officially on 19th November 2020.

Register your interest now by clicking here to attend the virtual open day on 19th November 2020. Visit the LTIC Page Here to explore the most up to date information on the modules available, the faculty, partners, and Legal Lab opportunities.

If you would like to reach out specifically for the LTIC, please email at info@lti.institute.

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