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Why should law students care about legal tech?

In 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) surveyed 900 law firms and found that “nearly all the firms [they] surveyed were using technology to help deliver legal services”. The message is clear: if you have your eye on a career in the legal field, you’ll need to embrace legal tech and understand how it can support and develop the sector. Below, we look at why legal tech is important, how it can help improve legal services, and explore ways of improving your knowledge.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 06 December 2023.

What is legal tech?

Simply put, legal technology – or legal tech – refers to the use of any technology or software which helps provide legal services and support legal work. It can assist lawyers in many ways and covers everything from everyday software, such as Microsoft Office, to specially designed programs and artificial intelligence (AI).

What are the benefits of legal tech?

In the SRA survey firms were asked their main purpose of using legal technology. The top three selected answers were to “improve service quality”, “improve workflow efficiency”, and to “allow staff to work more flexibly”. However, many firms also highlighted how it can be used to reduce costs, improve security and compliance, and can even help with recruitment. It can also help improve communication between legal professionals and their clients. Finally, by reducing or streamlining workloads, legal tech can allow lawyers to foster stronger relationships and focus on aspects of their careers they may have neglected.

Another belief is that legal technology can be used to help improve access to justice, by making legal advice more accessible and affordable. Of course, technology alone won’t remove all of the barriers, but it will go some way to doing so and, in time, hopefully this will only improve.

How can law students learn about legal tech?

Legal tech is an ever growing part of the industry and you’ll likely find this reflected in your studies. For example, all of our undergraduate LLB courses have optional modules on Legal Technology and Innovation, Legal Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Legal Technology. For postgraduate students looking to further develop their knowledge of legal tech, we have an MSc in Legal Technology, LLM in Data Protection and Intellectual Property, and the Postgraduate Diploma and Postgraduate Certificate in Legal Technology.

These courses cover essential aspects of legal tech in great detail, including areas such as cyberlaw, technoethics, and disruptive technology (innovations which significantly alter and revolutionise many aspects of the business world). We also offer a module on AI and blockchain technology, two major areas which many have identified as becoming more and more prevalent in the legal sector.

Another way of developing your legal tech skills is to seek employment or work experience with a firm. Seeing how solicitors and lawyers use and apply legal technology in their day to day work would provide invaluable insight and allows you to marry your theory with real-world practice.

We also have our ULaw Tech Research Academy – or ULTRA – our legal technology hub which breaks down some of the key concepts and innovations in the sector, to help you better understand where legal work is headed. It includes videos on AI, blockchain, and the future of law firms, with links to external sources for even more information and knowledge.  

Making the most of legal tech

One of the barriers highlighted in the Technology and Innovation in Legal Services survey carried out by the SRA was “a lack of in-house skills or resource”. You can futureproof your employability by not only learning all you can about legal tech but also embracing it. Identify problems in the legal world, or your practice area, and ask how tech could improve it. Which tasks take longer than necessary? Is there a way of improving a process with technology? Remember, even small changes can make a significant impact. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a difference.

 

If you want to learn more about the benefits of legal tech, take a look at our ULTRA technology hub today.