The legal field has traditionally been inaccessible to the layperson. The nuances of the law, legal jargon, and the intricacies of different legal systems often go over an ordinary citizen’s head, and people find themselves overwhelmed when faced with the simplest of legal tasks.
Technology is changing this. New platforms, information sites and ways of working are revolutionising the legal industry to improve access to justice, especially for those in more marginalised sectors of society. Here are a few technological advancements that are already changing the way we do law.
There are now apps on the market that perform some tasks of a lawyer. One of the most famous is LegalZoom, an app that allows anyone to create a will. There’s also Tomorrow, which helps customers set up a will or trust; this app has helpful videos to explain basic terminology so that consumers know what they’re getting into. These apps do more than just provide access to justice and legal services for those who couldn’t otherwise afford them; they also create a community to empower their consumers. As Tomorrow’s co-founder said, the aim is “to create conversation around these types of decisions instead of them happening alone.”
Social media is pervasive in all aspects of our lives and the law is no different. In a report published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, it was noted that 93% of the broader law non-profit community has some sort of social media presence. These platforms are being used to educate citizens on their legal rights and options through videos and court information. They also provide a space for people to ask questions.
On the administrative side, technology has the potential to correct inefficiencies in the legal sector. Artificial intelligence (AI) and e-discovery platforms can drastically improve document-processing times (e.g. eBrevia claims it can analyse 50 documents in less than a minute). These platforms can also reduce the amount of time lawyers spend on research – for example, Casetext uses an AI search engine to locate cases similar to the one you’re working on. Online systems of archiving can streamline recordkeeping and scheduling, which reduces time wasted in trying to locate files or scheduling court cases. There are also apps, such as Kira Systems, to help with due diligence. All of these technologies improve how the legal field functions, creating quicker access to justice for citizens.
Another way in which tech is transforming the legal field is through interfaces connecting clients with lawyers. For instance, Billy Bot (a chatbot) functions as a legal clerk, matching clients with solicitors, barristers and lawyers who can help them; it also settles fees.
These tools are just the tip of the iceberg, but they make it clear that technology holds the key to a progressive and innovative legal industry. As technology gains a larger foothold in how we do law, we are faced with an essential task: to ensure that these technologies are mobilised to provide greater access for the marginalised and disadvantaged. As the report in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology mentions: “Now more than ever, it remains imperative that access remains a central focus in the design, development, and deployment of court technology solutions.”
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