Technology is the catalyst by which the world turns. Over the past several years, technology has had a significant impact on the practice of law. With the rise of the internet, average Americans have a much larger access to legal information and they have over the past several decades. The practice of law for lawyers is changing as well. Lawyers once did all of their legal research using books. However, now most of that research is done electronically with legal research databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Nexis. Several technologies have come out recently that are changing the legal profession on the significant basis.
One of the biggest steps that has enabled technology in law to involve is the digitalization and storage of caselaw, statutes, and regulations. Recently, Harvard Law School has made their entire Collection of caselaw available to the public. This has enabled technology firms to aggregate, store, and provide statistics about the law in a way that we have not seen in the past.
Artificial intelligence is on the rise and may change how legal research is done. Recently, the company called ROSS Intelligence has started using the IBM computer called Watson in order to perform legal research. Specifically, they are attempting to get Watson to understand and interpret the legal terminology used by lawyers in order to look up case law and statutes. Other firms are developing similar technology that will enable lawyers to delegate the task of reviewing contracts to a computer. Some firms are even trying to develop intelligent contracts that can alter themselves based on a variable set of information.
Chat bots are also changing how people access legal information. With the rise of smart phone technology, people have access to large quantities of legal information at their fingertips. Now, there are various apps that you can download that will allow you to ask legal questions. Sometimes, those questions are not actually answered by an actual attorney but by computer. Consumers turned to these apps for mundane legal questions that they do not want to have to pay an attorney to answer. There is also an application called Docubot which allows users to generate legal documents.
Virtual offices are making it easier for attorneys to practice law while saving on large overhead costs. Lawyers use to need to brick-and-mortar offices in order to conduct their business. Now, a lawyer maybe able your entire case remotely without you ever having to meet. Attorneys accomplish this by renting office space when they needed for things like depositions or mediations.
Increased capabilities and legal research databases are also changing the legal profession some databases have broken down case law and statutes in a way that allows users to look up statistics on things like how often a judge has are ruled for plaintiffs. Databases are now incorporating non-legal sources such as newspapers and internet articles in order to provide a wider birth of information.
With the rise of technology in the legal profession, more bar associations are making it mandatory for lawyers to have technology-based CLE programs. This means that older lawyers will have to learn how to use things like form documents, Westlaw, and how to browse the internet. This is a big step because there are many lawyers who rely on paralegals to do the technical work and have little understanding of how far technology has come in the legal profession.
Lastly, the rise of hacking has caused lawyers to evaluate whether or not they need cyber security protection. The attorneys have an obligation to keep the information and property of their clients in safekeeping and now that includes keeping that information away from hackers. Moreover, many lawyers are involved in setting policy in helping the United States combat hacking from foreign nations.
Perhaps one day, they will do away with in person hearings and judges will decide everything based on reading a computer. I am sure eventually the Supreme Court will have to decide if that satisfies the requirements of due process. Until then, lawyers still have to suit up and get to court.