Legal Technical Innovations

  • October 01, 2018
  • David J. Bilinsky

There is a fable regarding Emperor Augustus of Rome and Hero of Alexandria, who invented the first steam engine (called an Aeolipile) centuries before it finally appeared. On being shown the Aeolipile, the Emperor was to have said: “But what would I do with 200,000 slaves now?” Of course, any comparison between slaves and legal associates’ billable hours, is purely coincidental…

... Yet the legal environment is one of the more, shall we say, resistant to realizing the benefits of new technology. Changing any system is difficult, especially so when it is a firmly entrenched in procedural regulations and societal conventions as is the legal/judicial one.

At FutureLaw 2018 conference held at Stanford University, nine areas were identified as being open to legal technological innovations. These were: Marketplace, Legal Research, e-Discovery, Document Automation, Legal Education, Analytics, Practice Management, Online Dispute Resolution and Compliance.

We have seen greater innovation in document automation, legal education, practice management, ODR and legal research, courtesy of initiatives such as ROSS AI. Others, however, have proven to be more challenging.

In the closing keynote to FutureLaw 2018, Deborah L. Rhode (the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford, as well as the Director of the Program in Law and Social Entrepreneurship, and a frequently cited scholar on Legal Ethics) gave a talk on how legal regulation and ethics, as presently formulated (and here the differences between Canadian and US rules are marginal), stand in the way of innovation and change. Perhaps we need to start a dialogue over whom exactly the legal ethics rules are protecting (as does Ms. Rhode in her lecture).

Yet efforts continue. Sheffield, England will hold the LegalTech North conference on Nov 22, 2018. This conference seeks to bring together incubators, law firms, venture capital firms, futurists and legal startups, with the aim of forming a vibrant legal tech community in Sheffield. It boasts availability of talent as well as low costs as benefits for locating there.

Here in BC, by the time this goes to print, the BC Justice Hack 2018 will have been held. With no less lofty objectives than to improve access to justice as well as save the world, it seeks to bring together “[t]echnologists, business people, designers, and justice system actors (including lawyers)” to tackle legal problems using technology.

Ah – to boldly go where no lawyer – or justice system actor – has gone before!

© 2018 David J. Bilinsky