Learn in code

Originally published by in the Solicitors Journal (February 2020).

Technology will play an even greater role in the future of legal practice than it does today. Perhaps the changes are not going to be as radical in the short term as some like to claim (artificial intelligence (AI) will not be replacing lawyers anytime soon).

Nevertheless, some specialised software tools will likely transform some aspects of legal practice. Obvious examples include e-discovery, due diligence and contract automation tools which, though often not precise or ‘self-driving’ enough for many practical contexts in law today, are likely to get there relatively soon.

Similarly, there is a lot of promise around algorithms aiming to predict how the court – or another authority – would apply the law in a given factual scenario. However, the results are still somewhat underwhelming, for instance, you would be surprised how much manual work the creation of such AI tools actually requires.

It seems that the current demand for lawyers’ technology skills such as computer programming – ie. coding – is high, almost inexhaustible, but this is an anomaly caused by a rapid growth of the legal tech industry and a relatively small number of specialists. This situation will normalise and the market will become more competitive on the supply side.

In other words, if you want to be a legal technologist in ten years you had better be good.

But many law tech enthusiasts overexaggerate the importance of coding to future legal practice. Will, for example, future employment or land law specialists really need to know more than the average technologically-literate professional in their individual practice?

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