More universities are teaching lawtech – but is it just a gimmick?

Apr 12, 2019 by

Eager to be ahead of the curve, universities have started to offer specialist modules. Should lawyers believe the hype?

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Last month, the Estonian Ministry of Justice caused shockwaves when it announced “robot judges” could soon replace humans in small claims courts. Ott Velsberg, the country’s top data officer, has been asked to get started on a design – and with a pilot project likely to start later this year, Estonians may need to get ready for them.

Law is often seen as a slightly stuffy profession. But over the past three years there’s been increased interest in “lawtech”, which refers to the use of technology such as AI, big data and machine learning to provide legal services. Eager to be ahead of the curve, a number of universities have started offering specialist modules on the subject.

But is it all just a load of hype?

There’s no doubt lawtech is a hot topic for lawyers this year. At the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) annual conference, held at the Law Society’s impressive marble headquarters in Chancery Lane, London, earlier this month, an afternoon session on the topic was packed.

“It’s not all robots and Terminator,” said Michael Zajdel, 26, a paralegal with an interest in lawtech who is also the chair of the JLD in Cardiff and south-east Wales. “Juniors like tech, but the seniors don’t, really – more tech, more problems in their eyes. But juniors are ready to learn and we want to work with software.”

In commercial law, new technologies can help sift through contracts and case files, removing boring manual labour that up until now has mostly been carried out by juniors. In criminal and social welfare law, apps are being designed to help vulnerable people gain better access to much-needed services.

continue: More universities are teaching lawtech – but is it just a gimmick? | Law | The Guardian

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