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Technology - time for lawyers to get on the bus?

It is now widely accepted, and rightly so, that Northern Ireland is establishing itself as a Centre of Excellence for technological innovation. Examples of this are reported on an almost daily basis in Northern Ireland. Why then has the legal system not taken advantage of this technological revolution? A popular misconception is that lawyers are against modernisation. This is not the case - but is there a lack of understanding of what’s out there? A number of common myths amongst lawyers around the availability and use of legal technology may be part of the problem.

Legal Technology is too expensive and complicated. Wrong! As with most technologies today, major advances have been made in recent years making world-leading technologies more accessible and user friendly than ever before. Any lawyer that can draft and send an email can, with a minimum of training, use eDiscovery technology to assist them. Legal Technology can only be used in cases of enormous value involving millions of documents. Wrong!  It may be correct to say that most matters that make the news or legal press involving the use of technology are high value and high profile. That does not mean that these are the only matters in which it is utilised. Indeed most lawyers would be surprised at the size of the average technology-assisted case – most of which would fit squarely into the value bracket dealt with by the Commercial Courts in Northern Ireland.  Legal Technology is taking the jobs of lawyers. Wrong! Even the most sophisticated legal technology currently available worldwide (all of which is accessible by the Northern Ireland legal market) is designed to assist lawyers – not to replace them. Every lawyer has experienced the misery of wading through hundreds or even thousands of documents for a case, often late at night or at the weekend. Making this process easier, faster and more defensible - benefitting both the lawyer and the client, is the central focus of the legal tech market. Automation can’t be trusted and has no place in the law. Wrong! There is no doubt that the practice of Law is closer to art than science – especially when practiced by the very best - but as with many aspects of the modern world, automation and science can help the lawyer deliver their art better than they ever have before. Providing the best possible client service requires sophisticated thinking and sound human judgement. Why not then let technology carry some of the heavy burden of wading through information – freeing the lawyer’s brain to do what it does best – interpret and apply the facts at hand to ensure the best possible outcome for the client?

Is it time that lawyers got on the bus – or will it leave without them?