How businesses harness legal technology has evolved significantly in recent years. So much so that even the definition of legal technology has changed from what it was 10 – 15 years ago.
What is legal technology?
There are two mainstream definitions of legal tech; one relating to its use and another relating to what it is.
Legal tech definition #1
The first definition refers to the application of software to assist with legal projects and tasks, typically by lawyers, law firms, and in-house legal teams at medium-sized and large businesses.
Legal tech in this sense refers to using such software for a variety of tasks, which might include:
Legal tech definition #2
Since the 2010s, the term legal tech has evolved to define businesses, like Contractbook, disrupting the legal industry by making software tools more accessible to all. Companies like ourselves have also been instrumental in the evolution of legal tech applications and platforms by introducing features and benefits like:
- Document automation
- End to end contract management and contract lifecycle management
- The ability to seamlessly integrate with other legal software tools in your tech stack
- Trackable collaboration
What are the myths and misconceptions related to legal technology?
Although legal technology is simple to understand at its foundation, there are still several misconceptions surrounding its use. These are often cited as reasons why businesses might not use legal tech. If these have ever come up in your business or when weighing up the pros and cons of legal tech yourself, it is time to dump them!
1. Legal technology is just for the legal profession
Given the way legal tech has evolved, particularly during the last decade, it is somewhat surprising that this remains perhaps the most stubborn myth.
While legal tech is undoubtedly beneficial to lawyers and legal practices, most businesses can benefit from using it. You do not necessarily need to have an in-house legal team, either!
Think about how much software is designed to save business owners time and money. Legal tech is just another such example!
2. AI will replace lawyers
Much like legal tech in general, there is a lot of hype surrounding AI. In truth, there has been hype surrounding AI for many years across all industries.
Another truth? AI, machine learning, and natural language processing have been part of the legal profession for years. Like everything else, their use is simply evolving and becoming more refined.
AI will not replace lawyers but take care of repetitive tasks and processes, like reading documents or triggering contract updates and events.
3. Legal tech is a fail-safe against all potential issues
Linking into the myth that AI will replace lawyers is the idea that legal tech gives you 100% protection against making errors or having problems with contracts or other documents.
While legal tech will undoubtedly reduce the likelihood of errors occurring, you still need someone responsible for checking and signing things off.
4. Legal tech involves learning and deploying code
One of the reasons legal tech is so accessible is that you do not need to learn code.
If you use Contractbook and integrate our software with the rest of your tech stack, you will not even need to use code to achieve this!
5. Businesses will not support the use of legal tech
One of the most significant challenges when implementing change is getting buy-in from departments.
Most vital is that the legal tech you choose integrates seamlessly with the tools your business already deploys. For example, if your legal team spends most of its time working with the sales department, having a platform that does not effectively work with your CRM is not much use!
Ensure your legal tech is geared up to work with your existing tech stack, and buy-in will not be a problem.
6. Legal tech is expensive and complex to deploy
Cost and complexity are often the biggest reasons why businesses resist change.
If you choose the right legal tech tools, the cost will cover itself quickly when you realize how much time you save doing low-value, repetitive tasks. The complexity is little more than needing to learn how to use it and set up your integrations, which require a negligible amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
What are the benefits of working with legal technology?
With the myths associated with legal tech dispelled, it is time to look at how the benefits of legal tech directly impact your business.
Legal tech allows you to automate the entire contract lifecycle if you wish. Whether you need a contract drafting, need to trigger an action, or need to send contract revisions, legal tech can do everything with minimal to nil human involvement.
As well as giving you and your team members valuable time back to focus on higher-value tasks, automation also helps from a broader process and operational perspective. When you automate a process, you remove any limits and restrictions resulting from available labor, making your business more easily scalable.
2. Keep everything in one place
No matter the industry you work in, it is essential you can always find the documents you need when you need them. Even more crucially, you want your customers and clients to be able to do the same, enabling as many "self-service" elements to your service as possible.
Legal tech empowers your business to do this, whether by storing versions of a document or enabling you to efficiently work with different datasets to populate contracts or other legal documents.
Why spend your time finding what you need across multiple platforms when you can access the data at the touch of a button?
3. Enhanced customer and client experience
One of the most significant evolutions in legal tech in recent years has been driven by the realization that contracts and legal documents are for users, not lawyers.
If your business has suffered from losing clients or contracts going unsigned because of unwieldy documents filled by legalese, legal tech is the first step towards the solution!
4. Improved collaboration
Another significant trend within legal tech that has quickly become recognized as a huge benefit is the ability to take advantage of improved collaboration.
Collaboration is a critical benefit of legal tech for various reasons, including:
- Contracts and other legal documents are now increasingly used as working and living documents. They are used and executed regularly, rather than being signed and filed away to be forgotten.
- Contract and document creation processes are now far more collaborative than in previous years. Not just between a business and its clients, but across departments within a company. Wave goodbye to merging comments from various stakeholders or dealing with conflicted copies from Dropbox!
5. Data-driven decision making
Legal tech provides you with a range of analytics options that will help you optimize all your documents and processes. It can also empower your business to create and manage databases and data at scale.
Moving away from using pivot tables and Excel formulas might feel somewhat alien for a while! However, the ease at which you will be able to manage your databases and make decisions based on your insights will quickly leave you wondering how you ever managed without it.
In addition, think how amazing it is that something as relatively simple as access to data will help your legal practice make better decisions.
6. Increased access to justice
If your legal practice is utilizing legal tech, you can provide your services at a far lower cost, as the tech and software you’re using can do much of the work for you.
This means you can offer your services to a far broader section of the population, as lower cost means greater accessibility to your services and justice. People who didn’t previously have access to legal assistance and simply had to accept certain situations in their personal and professional lives can now take positive action!
7. Reduced human error
We have deliberately put this benefit last.
Many people who talk about the benefits of legal tech put this first, and then the rest of the benefits feel like an afterthought. Sure, ensuring your contracts and legal documents are professional, typo-free, and legally sound is excellent. Still, most of the time, you probably tick all these boxes anyway!
Of course, from a non-legal perspective, this is an even more significant benefit, especially if it saves you on legal fees having contracts checked over.
Even still, if 99% of your contracts are perfect, why not go for 100% and take human error out of the equation?!
Top legal technology developments and trends
Most of the benefits – and some of the myths! – of legal tech are driven by trends across the industry.
Before we look closer at developments within legal tech, it is worth looking at how legal tech is driving evolution in the legal industry itself. The biggest question you will probably ask yourself as a legal firm or lawyer when it comes to using tech for your work is “why?”
- You can process your workload quicker, and do more of it!
- You can generate documents quicker, removing the monotony sometimes associated with this type of work.
- You can take care of document review process quicker, both internally and around collaborative review processes.
- It makes your work more reliable. How much time and money could you save by not needing a legal proofreader checking everything?
If you are not using legal tech in your practice, the truth is you will be left behind by the wider industry sooner rather than later.
Turning our attention back to legal tech, what have been the most influential legal tech developments and trends in recent years, and which are continuing to power the industry’s evolution today?
1. A focus on the end-user
We mentioned the customer and client experience a little earlier. Every legal tech firm and industry disruptor worth following is obsessed with this point. What is noteworthy is how this trend is evolving within itself.
Legal tech has moved from focusing on end-users to understanding what this looks like to refining what this means.
In the coming years, the best legal tech platforms will increasingly understand the specific needs of different end-users and successfully cater to those.
2. Traditional law firms using more tech
As traditional law firms and practices realize software can augment them rather than make them redundant, uptake of legal tech tools is increasing, particularly all-in-one solutions.
Law firms will continue to move away from decentralized operations and realize a Dropbox subscription is not the best way to collaborate and keep their documents secure! As they understand how to utilize automation to deploy their time to better effect elsewhere, they will become far more efficient, productive, and profitable, too.
3. Legal tech driving culture change
In business, it is often the case that you need a culture in place first before you can introduce new technologies or accelerate towards digitalization.
Interestingly, legal tech is proving to work in the opposite direction. Platforms like Contractbook set cultural standards and workflows that lawyers are getting on board with, rather than law firms evolving their culture and then finding the tools to facilitate this.
Legal tech can help your practice to:
- Embrace new working practices such as working within the Agile methodolgy.
- Re-imagine how you deliver your services to your clients, and become more accessible as a result.
- Embrace change as you evolve alongside the capabilities of whatever legal tech you use.
- Take a fresh approach to how you operate, who you serve, and the specific legal sectors you work in thanks to the time you get back and the volume of work you can deal with.
In this sense, legal tech is true disruption!
4. Reducing the use of jargon for jargon’s sake
In the early days of legal tech, when most people thought it was “just for lawyers,” many solutions were little more than what lawyers do but put onto a computer. That meant documents remained full of legal jargon and terminology that only legal professionals could understand.
As legal tech has helped power the idea and acceptance that legal documents are not just for lawyers, this has brought a realization that there is no need for jargon for jargon's sake.
It is much easier to create and find contract templates written in plain English - your clients will thank you when they do not need to contact you to translate them! And how much time will that save you?!
5. The continued evolution of legal design
Legal design is perhaps the element of legal tech that will look most different even in a year or two. This will undoubtedly be the case if upcoming developments in legal design come at the same pace as those over recent years.
Driving legal design is the continued acceptance that contracts and other documents do not need to be unwieldy, 20-page, margin-to-margin essays. Instead, they can be visually appealing, easy to understand, and be built on an ethos of "less is more." Conversion rate is not often a metric associated with getting contracts signed, but it will be in years to come!
6. Remote but connected working and collaboration
Remote working will be one of COVID-19's long-term legacies, even if governments and the global business community push to bring people back into offices as much as possible.
Legal tech has shown us throughout the pandemic that, while we are working remotely, we have never been more connected in many respects. This is undoubtedly true for data access and collaboration and is likely to become even more refined as we better balance "in-person" and remote working in years ahead.
7. Less focus on "AI" as a threat and more focus on outcomes and things like data science
This might come across as a bold prediction, but I do not think it will take too long for the legal community to get over AI in terms of it being a “threat.”
This will primarily be driven by legal tech becoming ever more helpful. As we become better at harnessing tech capabilities, we will increasingly move into areas like exploring the potential of data science within the tech we use.
What are the best examples of legal technology tools?
Answering this question depends on how you define legal tech.
As we have seen across this guide, legal tech can be many things.
At the same time, platforms like accounting software and even email encryption tools are examples of legal tech.
As with any software tool, the best legal tech tools offer an all-in-one solution for your specific needs while also integrating with your existing tech stack. Depending on your business and what you plan to use legal tech for, lookout specifically for how your chosen platform integrates with your most vital apps. If your primary focus is sales or HR, for example, ensure your legal tech integrates seamlessly with these to help you grow your business.
How to keep up with legal technology news
The legal tech space is incredibly fast-moving. Your business must be ahead of the game to provide better solutions than your competitors and maximize the potential of your business.
Our own legal tech institute is a fantastic resource for in-depth analysis of the industry. Ensure you check it out and sign-up to receive our updates.
Elsewhere, the Legal IT Insider blog is super-useful for top-level industry news and for keeping up to date with new products and developments in the wider marketplace.
Harnessing legal technology in your business
To what extent are you using legal technology in your business?
If it is not already a central pillar of your operations, it is time to make a change!
Learn more about Contractbook here and book a demo or sign-up to take advantage of all our automation, collaboration, and integration features!