What is legal tech?

The term legal tech actually refers to all technology, especially ICT technology, that affects the work of the legal services provider. The recent rise of big data and artificial intelligence have put legal tech on the map, but the technology is older, of course.

The first step to legal tech involved automating the peripheral issues surrounding legal work. Time writing, file management and document formatting, for example. This yielded a substantial efficiency gain, but did not fundamentally change the way the legal professional himself works.

The second step was already getting closer: being able to automatically look up references and case law. Online databases made tracing sources and searching for substantiation much easier. Model contracts provided inspiration when writing agreements. Still the work itself was about the same, but again a substantial efficiency gain.

The third step in legal tech touches on legal work itself. Analyzing cases with big data, for example: what strategies are useful, what do we know about this judge given previous rulings, or what have we learned from this opposing party with other clients. Going through files for red flags or attractive files. Or having an artificial intelligence analyze a letter from a counterparty: is there anything special in this, can we dismiss it with standard arguments or do we not need to respond?

Of course, this third step still does not eliminate lawyers. But it does shift the focus in their work greatly. This is the difference from the first steps, which gave only efficiency gains and no fundamental changes. This third step is fundamental though: we are going to rely on big data analytics and artificial intelligence instead of checking and questioning everything ourselves. That promises something!


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