Legal tech and the transformation of the legal profession

–The potential of digitalisation remains largely untapped in the legal field, according to Riikka Koulu, director of the Legal Tech Lab. Her comments were given at the morning coffee seminar of the Science and Business in Dialogue network. Koulu contends that lawyers make little use of new technologies in their work, and that the gap between rhetoric and reality is conspicuous.

Digitalisation has long been making inroads in the media industry.

–Digital tools have been necessary to respond to the increasing requirements of documentation. The burden of proof has been reversed in areas such as taxation, data protection, competition law and bribery, explained Merja Karhapää, chief legal officer of the Sanoma Group, adding:

–Another factor accelerating the progress of digitalisation has been the requirement of speed, which has challenged us to trim operations and improve their efficiency.

Legal practitioners have been comparatively slow in adopting new technologies and work practices, although the topic has long been discussed. The inertia can be partly attributed to the focus on technology as such. 

–A client-oriented approach and the development of processes from the client perspective lie at the centre of this change. The focus must be on the clients of the future. We are already seeing how client companies increasingly require straightforward, speedy, transparent and cost-effective cooperation, noted Katja Hollmén, director of client relations at Dittmar & Indrenius.

Flexible lawyers in high demand

–Today, lawyers often have to deal with matters that are not purely legal. They may even have to bear the overall responsibility for matters that require a comprehensive overview and interaction with specialists in various fields and departments, Karhapää mused. 

Her comments prompted discussion of the need for changes in the legal profession. Many of those present stated that expertise in project management and customer insight are also needed on teams.

–Customer insight or digitalisation can’t just be bought off the shelf for next year’s strategy. It’s all based on a mind-set open to change and an interactive corporate culture, Hollmén pointed out.

Justice in jeopardy?

The new trend will bring about not only professional, but also social challenges. Researchers at the Legal Tech Lab are also interested in the changes and responsibilities associated with bringing about justice.

–How do you guarantee that the adoption of a legal algorithm does not end up bolstering existing structures of social injustice? Riikka Koulu asked.

In fact, one of the projects at the lab explores how digital tools can be used to better spread the message of legal protection.

What is the Legal Tech Lab? What is Science and Business in Dialogue?

Legal Tech Lab is a multidisciplinary project at the Faculty of Law that investigates and tests legal technologies and the digitalisation of law.

The goal is to highlight the potential of legal technology, critically explore related developments and serve as a centre for research and practice in the field.

Science and Business in Dialogue is a University of Helsinki network that brings together various professionals and leading scholars to together examine current challenges and find solutions.