Engagement with new technology has been a definitive part of the 21st century, as the explosion of computational and digital innovation has irrevocably changed the face of society. In certain industries, this is a logical progression – but for others, the implications of improved technology can seem irrelevant, or even existentially threatening. Law is one of those industries, commonly understood to be a historical practice not only with roots in tradition, but with a fixed logical approach. Here we seek to undo that myth, with exploration of just how important innovation is to the legal industry.

Tools for Better Work

The primary driver for incorporating innovation into law practice is the same driver that pushes change in a vast majority of global industries. New technologies are designed not in opposition to pre-existing notions with regard to carrying out tasks and processes, but in sympathy with them. That is, new technologies serve to expedite and improve existing processes, not to violently upheave and replace them. While law has a rich history in pen and paper, physical testimonies and face-to-face representation, shifts in technology allow the same results to be achieved in newer, faster, more reliable ways. 

Recent and future technological shifts are not to be viewed as an existential threat; look no further than the adoption of computer technologies for communication and the storing of crucial contracts, evidence, testimonies and more. Upcoming innovations can be viewed in a similar way, allowing clerks to automate time-consuming administrative processes and data dissemination. This is particularly true of new movements with regard to AI, more on which will be discussed in a later section.

Reflecting the Shifting Needs of a Tech-Driven Society

As well as a function of ever-improving technological foundations, legal innovation is also crucial as a reflection of society’s increasing reliance on new tech solutions. Laws and regulations are in a slow but constant process of change, to accommodate new interpretations and to protect and enshrine rights in new theoretical spaces – and even these changes are too slow to comprehensively cover the breakneck pace at which digital spaces are changing and growing, or at which new technologies break previously inscrutable barriers. Understanding and implementation of new technology allows firms to keep apace with the growing demands of a technologically advanced society, meet the needs of their clients and meaningfully engage with increasingly technology-oriented cases, especially where complex tech or digital tools are vital to the case.

Embracing AI, Embracing Blockchain

There are two specific technologies from which the legal industry can benefit: AI and blockchain. These technologies can also inform one another, fundamentally altering certain processes and carving a path to a new kind of future for the practice of law. AI technologies can eventually manage case loads and paperwork autonomously, verifying documents and disseminating vital information to relevant parties through intelligent reading of documents and context clues. Blockchain presents a decentralised and uniquely secure way to handle sensitive information, with smart contracts representing an epochal shift in the way transactions, agreements and processes are carried out. Together, these technologies can revolutionise legal practice in hitherto unimagined ways, reducing case backlogs and improving results for the system at large.