Credit: Singapore Law Gazette
The world of law isn’t what it was for our grandparents. It isn’t even what it was for our parents. Major legislation has changed how things work, but it’s more than that. The world of law has changed even down to the minutiae of daily work. For that, we don’t have legislation to blame. It all comes down to the same thing that effects quite literally every aspect of our lives these days: the technology we use.
You’d quite literally have to live under a rock to not know be aware of how technology has become an essential part of our lives. It doesn’t matter what industry one works in, it has an impact. Doctors heavily rely on the latest advancements to catch any early signs of disease a patient may have before it gets worse. Retailers require systems to check staff in and keep track of inventory. Writers need the latest software so they can get out grammatically correct work to their audiences in a timely fashion.
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Just like every other industry, attorneys rely on technology at every step in the litigation process, from scanning documents, to streamline communications, to a trial presentation. A major player in this game is automation. Frank Levy, an MIT labor economist and co-author of the paper “Can Robots be Lawyers?” found that new technology replaces roughly two percent of a lawyer’s total workload each year.
Two percent doesn’t sound like much, but think about the big picture. The way we operate with technology has exploded over the past 20 years alone. Two percent of a lawyer’s workload every year for 20 years adds up to 40%.
Obviously this number is a bit scarier than the statistic actually is—as some work have been replaced by technology, new responsibilities have arisen too—but the number is still telling of the automation the world of law faces. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 23% of work done by lawyers can be automated by technology.
Shannon Capone Kirk, who was a young lawyer in the late ‘90s, echoes this sentiment. According to Kirk, her entry job 25 years ago is essentially obsolete these days. She would spend weeks flipping through bankers’ boxes and reading paper documents to properly organize what was relevant to the litigation process. Now, most legal professionals don’t need a person to do that. They can get all this information through e-discovery technology.
Algorithms and automation might sound frightening to the average attorney or litigation support professional, but it doesn’t have to be. Technology lessens an attorney’s workload, certainly, but thanks to that, attorneys can take on more casework. It can also allow them to provide clients with additional resources.
Take the elder care and estate lawyers with Shalloway & Shalloway for example. The world of elder law is a difficult and often confusing one for the average person to navigate. It’s more than the wills and trusts most expect it to be. It’s full of terminology, nuances, and a number of benefits it can be difficult to tell whether or not one qualifies for. Figuring all this out on one’s own can be a headache.
“Elder law is unique in that we define work by the client, not the subject,” firm President Mark Shalloway says. Divorce and real estate are both subjects, but elder law covers 13 different areas— from guardianship, living wills, and public benefits like Medicaid. We use wills and trusts, but we also use long term care facilities and taxes. …People don’t realize that the field covers over 12 areas.”
With the power of technology, clients don’t have to go to a library or call their attorney with every question they have. The firm regularly publishes blog posts and newsletters that cover major questions clients have. Chances are, clients can find precisely what they need by reading through these resources, saving both the attorney and the client precious time.
On top of that, the firm offers a series of free, virtual elder law seminars each month. This connects current and prospective clients alike with the firm president and allows them to learn about some of the areas in which they have questions. In the past, this sort of immediate connection wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks to advancements in video and presentation technologies, it is.
Scheduling a meeting with an attorney or booking a litigation support service has never been easier. Clients don’t have to call and potentially deal with being on hold any longer. They don’t have to worry about whether or not their email made it to their firm of choice’s inbox. Clients can schedule a service no matter where they are in a matter of minutes thanks to online scheduling options. This is not only a time-saving tool for legal professionals, but it is a great organizational tool. All of their prospective clients can be found in the same place.
When attorneys are the ones who need a service fulfilled, they can find streamlined services just as easily as their clients. Attorneys don’t have to scour yellow pages and newspapers to find a court reporting service that fits their needs. A Google search helps, but to find a database of quality, national court reporters, all attorneys need to do is go to the National Network Reporting Company. There, attorneys can be connected with a court reporting firm that is close by whose quality of speed, accuracy, and customer service are guaranteed.
The world of law was shaken to its core by the pandemic and lockdown. Attending one’s favorite restaurant can be put on pause, but one’s personal injury case can’t. Remote depositions resolved this problem. They allow attorneys to meet with their legal teams, clients, and opposing counsels without having to worry about safety precautions. Without them, the world of law would have to be put on hold, which would have caused even more problems for a myriad of people.
As a whole, advancements in technology have proven to be a significant positive to the industry. Legal professionals are able to work more efficiently and effectively, allowing them to connect with clients in a way never possible before.