Technology is taking our jobs! Or at least that’s what everyone is telling us. With the rise of artificial intelligence and (somewhat) automated contracts should we as law students be concerned about our jobs in an already oversaturated industry?

The short answer is…no. Technology is simply not a replacement for the level of understanding and analysis required in legal practice. However, technology is fundamentally transforming the way the law is practiced, providing lawyers with new and exciting ways to provide efficient, sound and cost effective advice to clients.

The Deakin Law Students’ Society recently hosted a Technology in Law Panel, where representatives from Clayton Utz, Hall & Wilcox and Herbert Smith Freehills discussed the ways in which technology is changing the industry. Overwhelmingly, the consensus of the panel was that technology can be utilised to deliver legal solutions in a better, more effective way. Rather than looking to develop themselves into technological giants, law firms are continuing to do what they have always done – chasing answers for business problems – not attempting to become technology developers.

The majority of technological development that is occurring within the role of Legal Operations. Legal Operations are usually a team within a law firm that work to protect the firm whilst also growing the company. Legal Operations managers have a strong understanding of the core business and an ability to translate the needs of business departments into legal requirements and as such, are playing an increasingly important role within the legal industry.

The development of technology within the legal industry occurred as a rapid rate however, it has not been as successful as was promised. Technological machinery tools were not as revolutionary as expected and as a result, the demand for them is on the decline. However artificial intelligence has been useful when it comes to the discovery process, as it can screen for keywords, cutting out the massive amounts of time and money that would otherwise be used throughout the discovery process. The courts have now begun to acknowledge the strengths of this predictive coding when deciding whether or not certain documents should be considered admissible.

As the legal industry continues to integrate itself the technological spheres, new challenges are arising for industry leaders. The key challenge surrounding the role of technology in the legal industry is security. As the majority of data is currently stored on the cloud, advanced hackers do have the potential to hack into these systems and access confidential client information. Not only will this result in a breach of the professional duty to keep information confidential but rather, it will put the integrity of the entire firm at risk.

The current consensus from law firms is that law students do not need to do a whole lot to ensure that they are technologically savvy enough for the legal industry. Rather, being born as digital natives, much of these developments will seem natural for the majority of graduating law students. Rather, law firms provide age old advice for law students; approach the law in a unique way, move away from black letter law and make it more digestible for the everyday person. Whilst technology may be changing at a rapid rate, the values and interests of the legal industry still ultimately remain unchanged.

By Julia Mollica

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