Giuseppe Pia, trainee at Burness Paull, is the first person to undertake a legal tech seat at the firm; a dual role with the Tech & Commercial team and the firm’s innovation manager. Over the course of three blogs, Giuseppe will de-code the hot topic of legal tech and explain what he’s learning about this growing area of legal service.

In the beginning… there was paper

Before diving into this trilogy of blogs, let it be known that I’m in no way a computer whizz. The initial notion of legal technology was once as new to me as it may be to some readers. Solving tech-related issues throughout my youth consisted of huffing and puffing over dust in my Gameboy and the magic rule of unplugging a PC for ten seconds then plugging it back in. Both highly scientific and highly effective methods; both yet to be disproved.

Following six months in our Property department, I believe I’ve had a similar level of legal tech exposure as my fellow trainees. My current seat is sure to expose me to a much greater level than any other seat provides for.

What is legal technology?

Legal technology is the new obsession of pioneers in the legal services industry. Over $1 billion was invested into legal tech businesses last year. Universities nationwide are beginning to offer legal technology courses – another testament to its recent widespread emergence. So what is it? Readers with recent interview experience may well have a fine-tuned answer to this. My basic interpretation of this buzzword is this: any digital system specifically designed to assist lawyers. Essentially, it makes our job easier or quicker and therefore makes us more efficient.

Legal tech covers a range of products and processes. The larger categories include:

  1. Legal research – Despite my obliviousness at the time, we were all exposed to a form of legal technology as students. Tools like LexisNexis and Westlaw form part of this recognised strand of legal technology. Perhaps students are better acquainted with this than some practicing solicitors are, such is the frequency of use throughout university.
  1. Document automation – Our interaction with law as students differs significantly from in practice. Most professionals will be familiar with document automation. This tech allows for the first draft of a document to be prepared quickly and accurately with a simple “fill the blanks” procedure. Through experience it will become apparent where the generated template needs tweaked and where complex drafting is required. Learning these patterns is significantly easier and more time-efficient than learning how to draft documents from scratch.
  1. Document review – This is the current poster boy for legal tech and a sector which is expanding with many start-ups entering the market. It centres on artificial intelligence and consists of software that provides reports or summarises key information through the analysis and processing of patterns. I will receive further exposure to this area during my innovation role by assisting in developing programmes to suit our firm and clients.

A window of opportunity

Legal technology is a developing area aiming to provide simple, accurate methods to speed up the work of lawyers. The core concepts explained above will hopefully encourage technophobes and technophiles alike to explore and experiment further with this genre of tech, as it is becoming increasingly influential in the workplace. Anybody invested in it is sure to put themselves in an advantageous position – not only in terms of employability but also in terms of career progression by becoming an efficient, forward-thinking solicitor once that job is secured.

Now that I‘m clued up on the basics, I am ready to immerse myself in my legal tech seat. Stay tuned for more insights over the next few months including debunking legal tech myths and what the future holds for legal tech.

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