The Law Society on capturing technological change in legal services

The Law Society of England & Wales, caught out by the recent resignation of CEO Catherine Dixon amid accusations that it is not prepared to change, has today (25 January)  published a 116-page report called Capturing Technological Change in Legal Services.

The report, written by Law Society researcher Tara Chittenden, details areas of innovation – products, processes and strategies – where it says technology and new ways of thinking and working are “making big changes” across the profession. 

“From Bitcoin to machine learning to ‘lawyers on demand’, we see solicitors taking advantage of new opportunities to reshape the legal services sector,” Law Society president Robert Bourns says by way of introduction.

“New technologies such as machine learning and advanced automation are reshaping the way the legal sector works,” he says, adding, “This report pulls together examples and insights from those at the forefront of legal technology, and offers a window into how the legal sector may look in the not-too-distant future.”

The Law Society, which sponsored Legal Geek’s inaugural legal tech startup conference in 2016, is trying to position itself as “an innovation nexus” – connecting innovators to and their ideas with firms looking for a solution or an edge.

On one level, it is quite well placed to do so – given that it does, as Bourns says, have “the whole sector view to spot emerging concerns, bring together resources to tackle problems, and advocate for policy change when it inhibits innovation, or simply is no longer fit-for-purpose.”

As has always been the case, the fact that the Law Society has the whole sector view is also its Achilles heel – the City’s idea of innovation is very different to the high street, as the Law Society  identifies in the report.

The report, which follows on from the Law Society’s research on the Future of Legal Services, published last year, which identified technological change as a major factor, focuses in particular on three areas of innovation which are redefining the legal sector:

•         Product innovation, where technology opens new areas of legal work, or responds to new ways of delivering advice to clients to suit their changing needs and expectations.

•         Process innovation, where technology changes the way legal services are carried out, such as utilising machine learning and automation to allow technology to boost solicitors’ productivity.

•         Strategy innovation, which allows firms to be more transparent with their pricing and more flexible with their resourcing.

It represents a huge amount of work by the Law Society and captures many of the client-facing and back end technologies at play across the sector. “This report shows us a very different profession, one with energy and ideas, ready to promote a revolution in how we deliver legal services,” Bourns says.

Much will rest on whether the same can be said of the Law Society as to whether it achieves its ambitions to be at the heart of that change.

Click here to download the report:

Keep an eye out  for our more detailed analysis of the findings in the report, out soon.