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Legaltech … is that really a “thing”

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These days, it’s vital to put a label on an activity or solution, as without it, positioning becomes difficult.  Whether it’s a solution for monitoring buildings, automating the letting process or streamlining client on-boarding, without the description “PropTech” such solutions would drift into obscurity.

PropTech is a multi-billion industry – indeed, the success of the Unissu platform illustrates an appetite for solutions to the myriad of problems associated with property – both residential and commercial. Larger companies are now moving into this space illustrate there is value to be found there.

But what about the legal sector – what is happening with “LegalTech”. The legal sector is, reassuringly, lagging behind. So are there benefits that can be gained from applying technology to the legal process?

It depends on the law

Dumping an entire industry into a single classification bucket of “Legaltech” introduces scope for complications and disagreements. The huge variation of work that lawyers do, is comparable to the different types of issues in the property industry.

The corporate world of lawyers with mergers and acquisitions requiring the analysis of perhaps millions of pages of documents, simply cannot be compared to the probate lawyer managing the estate worth £150,000 of a private individual. The conveyancing lawyer who has to check numerous documents in a management pack for a leasehold flat has nothing in common with the European competition lawyer who must interpret EU legislation for cross-border competition law.

Clearly, a single “legaltech” solution is not an appropriate description, and each must be evaluated and interpreted within their own subject area.

Small Law versus Big Law

A clear distinction can be drawn between private and commercial legal activities and the technology is at very different stages of development for each. The use of robots in “big law” corporate mergers and acquisition is well established, especially in the US. Obviously this is an attractive market as there are bigger costs to reduce and larger projects to run. That is why most of the larger law firms are actively investing in knowledge management tools and document analysis to reduce costs and risk.

Small law, or private client, is a different and much more interesting challenge for technology. The types of problems tend to be far more varied with many more variables that don’t lend themselves easily to automated analysis. Indeed, the market is much more fragmented and there are less “quick and large wins”. That’s not to say that it is not a valid market, but for solving specific problems. For example, “Case Cruncher Alpha” analysed PPI claims, and got about 87% accuracy compared to 66% accuracy from human lawyers. “DoNotPay” is probably the best-known software for contesting parking tickets.

Private client technology

The market for lawtech for private individuals presents far more challenges and is currently underdeveloped. For that reason, this channel is designed to stimulate debate amongst providers looking to address the needs of the public. We believe that this represents a genuine opportunity for technology to solve real-world problems everyday and bring genuine benefit to consumers.

Published by unissu and written by Peter Ambrose:

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