Technological disruption presents legal industry with big opportunity

This article originally appeared Business Day – Stuff, 13 August 2017

The legal industry is generally behind the 8-ball when it comes to innovation and technological disruption which can make lawyers “freeze up”, LawFest organiser Andrew King says.

But instead of seeing it as a challenge, the focus should be on the opportunity created by new ways of doing legal services.

King, who worked inside law firms for 15 years before starting a consultancy, has been running a legal technology conference for the past five years.

This year’s LawFest, held in May, was the biggest yet with more than 200 people in attendance.

Topics at the conference included artificial intelligence, privacy, disruption, the emergence of blockchain, social media and business transformation.

King said a good cross section of the legal industry attended, but an interesting trend was the rise in the number of “decision makers” – partners and chief executives – who went.

“There’s a lot more interest in this space than what there was, because for other professions and other industries, times are changing, everything’s being disrupted.

“I think for a long time the legal profession’s perhaps, should we say, stood still, and perhaps been a bit more conservative than other areas.

“There are a lot more challenges, there’s a lot more demand from clients, there’s other competition.”

King said artificial intelligence and the notion of robots replacing legal jobs was high on the agenda.

But where people had buried their heads in the sand previously, client demands had meant the profession was waking up.

Clients were concerned with cost and wanted a more definitive answer that showed practices were keeping up with the latest technology.

“Clients say we shouldn’t have to be just paying for people to do things, surely a lot of that sort of stuff can be automated.

“It’s provided a lot of challenges to law firms to actually change their models.

“Some people see it as a challenge, others see it as an opportunity to actually say, ‘Hang on, we’re going to change to work smarter which means we can actually go in and pitch for these other people’s clients that are just carrying on with the status quo.” 

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