Law has been an immutable practice for some time, and for good reason. There are of course issues with any legal system or process, but the developed world has enjoyed the benefits of fair and just society in large part due to legal precedent and process.
However, technological advancement represents existential change for the legal industry, as old practices adapt to serve society better. Here are some key ways in which law could change in the future.
One of the biggest potential changes with regard to law in the future lies with the legislative process itself. Law is by its nature a historical practice, with ingrained traditions and practices which could be viewed as outdated in today’s tech-forward society. Crucial documents and evidence are still supplied in person, and courts are also held on a face-to-face basis. With email technology already adopted by an overwhelming majority of firms and legal officials, what’s to stop further innovation with regard to applications of law? Digital courtrooms could become a reality, with electronic submission of evidence and AI-enhanced administration of proceedings. These innovations would streamline cases, and make legal processes more accessible – an issue only highlighted by the issues caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Firms and Innovation
The rapid growth in new technologies, from feats of engineering to digital and computational upheaval, has given rise to a new breed of legal representative – the technology lawyer, perfectly placed to advise on the legal implications on new technologies, as well as the possibilities for adopting and implementing them as a private or public enterprise. These tech lawyers practice what they preach, making the most of cutting-edge technologies to improve their own services. These improvements manifest in a number of ways; decentralised blockchain technology enables firms to distribute files, assets and smart contracts with an immutable ‘paper trail’, while advancements in AI enable offices to reduce the resources spent on simple, repetitive administrative tasks – increasing the amount of face-to-face time they can spend with clients, or engaging with the specifics of a given case.
Access to Resources
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly for law as a whole, the adoption and improvement of technologies to benefit courts and firms alike should have a single overarching aim: to improve access to legal representation and counsel for all. According to the World Justice Project, less than one in three who experienced a legal issue globally have sought counsel to advise on the problem, with a wide variety of obstacles presented as a potential reason for this discrepancy. Poverty is a major factor, as is the perceived inscrutability and glacial pace of the legal process. In the UK, wait times for small claims court cases alone are up to 71 weeks.
With implementation of automation, AI and blockchain technologies, as well as an overhaul of the legislative process on the side of the government and justice system, backlogs can be more efficiently cleared, and information regarding legal representation can be more clearly and directly supplied to potential clients or claimants. Those suffering injustice can access advice and counsel quicker, unburdened by a slow rate of uptake or arcane legacy practice.