We’ll give three reasons why the legal profession doesn’t buy tech. Stop the gaslighting because all three are legit.
TLDR: providing the legal industry with secure easy to use systems is essential for any democracy. Compromised lawyers and overloaded judges can’t pursue justice.
While cruising the clubhouses, we noticed a tendency to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) among lawyers. The basic message: there is so much brilliant legal tech so lawyers should adopt or die. In ‘World of Robots‘ we provided numbers and examples of the speed at which they adopted technologies like the pager, Blackberry, and iPad. The first digital case law search engine was created and used in the early seventies. Correct, lawyers went ‘online’ to retrieve case law before the internet was even invented.
The last decade of legal tech didn’t live up to the hype, but we’re at the dawn of a new one. This decade we start with smart technologies like GPT-3 and a pandemic accelerating tech adoption. However, major legal obstacles remain and the industry is perhaps in the worst shape it’s ever been. Here’s why.
Legal professionals traditionally practiced security by obscurity, an approach rejected as far back as 1851. Then the Panama papers exposed law firms as the weakest link and quickest route to sensitive information. Now the Solarwinds hack reminded us that digital systems can be jeopardized at many junctures. A perfect illustration is the recent hack of 7th ranked global law firm Jones Day. It’s simple: a law firm with many tech vendors just increases their risk profile and exposure to attacks. If you’re shocked at a $2 Billion law firm being a soft target, imagine how our government-hosted courts and judges feel.
If financial and health records get exposed, we can hit the perpetrators with a lawsuit. But how do we prosecute when judges and lawyers are also compromised? When both digital and legal defenses go down, we don’t have a fair society. If many do not trust their legal system, they’ll march on the Capitol. A secure legal industry is the safety net for our society. Its participants must be able to use systems securely to reach a fair judgment.
Security doesn’t only mean impenetrable but also means continuity. It’s one of the reasons some professionals still prefer paper. The law states that judges are nominated for life and lawyers enjoy confidentiality no matter what. In practice, no system can offer confidentiality for life.
The reality is that new technologies offer an ephemeral solution. Systems are flexible and update frequently to stay secure and competitive. They save data encrypted in proprietary formats in many places at once. These formats are only supported until the next release, the company runs out of money, gets acquired, or the developer disappears.
Here’s where the legal industry struggles to live up to its ethical duty while considering innovating. At some point, lawyers moved from stone to paper and from paper to email. Nothing lasts forever and change is inevitable. However, when legal commits, they are required by law to make it last.
Whenever the next big investment announcement rolls around just be sure to check if there were any law firms mentioned as investors? Another hint: when a tech vendor lands a large contract with a Tax or Justice department or a Law institution. Besides the essentials like email security or eDiscovery, legal seems most intrigued by technologies that already have the data they need. Legal doesn’t invest in populating your software with their data or training your algorithm. Spoiler: legal actually doesn’t have that much data. On the contrary: they seek more data to make better decisions.
How did we uncover the pattern of security, continuity, and data investments? We used Spark+ to analyze investments by Corporates and Law Firms to break them down by type of company. Two samples, typical of what we’ve seen, are Palantir and Spark Beyond: both have fascinating deals with law firms.
As the last line of defense, legal does have some special considerations when it comes to choosing tech. There is data to prove legal professionals are quick to adopt when it’s right for them.