Making Sense of the Legal Technology Market in Australia

By Tomas Atkins, Legal Solutions Consultant

Lawyers today have an ever-growing pool of legal technology at their fingertips. The market is now so large that trying to find the right product to use is both costly and time consuming – some companies have even decided it makes more commercial sense to just do it themselves. Through my role at Dovetail I have the opportunity to speak with a wide variety of lawyers, so I thought it was time that the legal technology market was mapped out for the Australian Legal Industry.

‘Legal Technology’ is consistently a hotly debated topic within legal conferences, seminars, networking events, round tables – you name it. As technology rapidly advances, it is even feared as a threat to the future of the legal profession itself. This article looks at what products are currently available and presents how they benefit legal teams throughout Australia.

(Human and machine, finding ways to work together in harmony *cue romantic music*)

The increased use of technology is having clear flow-on effects. Law Schools are offering electives aimed at increasing digital literacy, and advanced technological aptitude is quickly becoming a pre-requisite for legal employment. In my role at Dovetail, I speak with lawyers daily and it has become apparent that lawyers are seeing technology’s impact on the evolution of the industry.

Put simply, Legal Technology has become a necessity in driving efficiencies within any legal team, often automating repetitive and routine tasks and allowing more time for lawyers to focus on more complex legal issues. You never see characters on Suits performing data entry/contract review/discovery for hours on end, and thankfully, this is becoming more and more rare in the real world.

Having recently attended the ACC Conference in Perth and Sydney, both heavily focused on technological innovation, as well as attending a seminar by a leading authority on Artificial Intelligence, Andrew Harris – a professional engineer with Laing O’Rourke and an academic at University of Sydney (you should see his videos showing his team ‘teaching’ new AI / robots and how quickly the new technology ‘learns’), I felt that it was time that I had a look at what technology products are being used and are readily available in Australia.

One thing that immediately became clear is there are a lot of different products, performing many different and often overlapping functions – it is easy to become overwhelmed. To more easily understand the legal tech products available, I mapped them into different categories.

Whilst many companies are attempting to create their own legal tech, in my experience many come full circle and buy an ‘off the shelf’ product in the end. A majority of internal company systems being developed are mostly aimed at templated contract terms, risk assessment scores, and ‘traffic light’ type systems to determine best use of inhouse counsel attention.

The Legal Tech Market can broadly be broken up into seven categories including:-

  • Practice Management;
  • Document & Process Management;
  • Discovery;
  • Contracts;
  • Video Conferencing;
  • Artificial Intelligence; and
  • Other Services.

Practice Management

This software acts as an overarching management tool. Usually providing, billing, time recording, document and contract management tools. While some of these systems may try to do too much, they aim to provide a single and integrated solution in a cost effective way.

Document and Process Management

These systems help your legal team manage the vast amounts of documentation synonymous with legal work. They range from offering central cloud storage, security and e-signatures – allowing easy access and collaboration, to actually providing generic legal documentation frameworks and helping with your ever-growing list of precedent documentation.

Contracts

This software is aimed at reducing the time it takes to draft, review and analyse legal contracts. It often allows easy mark-ups of changes to be made and some even include risk and compliance analysis.

E-discovery

A system that simplifies the process by which electronic data is searched and deemed useful as evidence in litigation.

Artificial Intelligence

The perceived main threat to the profession as we know it – or opportunity… These are the exciting products whose aim usually is to be able to summarize legal documents or answer legal questions more quickly and accurately than a human lawyer.

Video Conferencing

Whilst not strictly ‘legal specific’ technology, I have included video conferencing as lawyers working remotely is becoming more commonplace. Reliable video conferencing software is vital for this working arrangement to be maintained.

Other useful software

I have included two additional pieces of software that I find save me time every day. One is a password manager and the other an e-signature platform.

Final tips:

  • Free Demos are incredibly useful to get a feel for a product
  • It is often the juniors who will be using the system the most – especially regarding administration – so let them have an active role in the due diligence process
  • Ensure any agreement you join has IT support included – also looking at the times these are available, ensuring you have the right time zone, as well as the average response times
  • Have the engagement of the team – and take them on the journey
  • Try the product out for a short period, perhaps use a product for a single matter, if this isn’t an option, maybe this isn’t the right system, don’t go all in at once
  • Don’t become locked in to a system before you decide that it’s right for you
  • Ask questions around customisability: what are the options, costs, and if this is part of your license?

Understandably, this is high level summary of various off-the-shelf products and features from legal tech providers in the market. There are also some examples of law firms putting together apps and tools to help clients with specific niche tasks. Here at Dovetail, our focus is on people – so we’re technology agnostic, but we’re keen to hear about what people are using.

If you think there are any products that I’ve missed, or any comment you would like to add, we’re certainly interested to hear what you’re using, what you’ve tried and what you’d like to see next…

Tomas Atkins – tomas.atkins@dovetaillaw.com.au

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