The Law Society has issued a report on lawtech. It says that the adoption of digital technologies and related advances in AI in delivering legal services has been a major focus of attention over the past decade, given the potential of these developments to fundamentally transform how the sector operates in respect of all aspects of its work.
However, the rate and character of adoption of any new technology is fraught with uncertainty. The displacement of traditional ways of working and the accompanying shift of mind-set needed to fully embrace the potential opportunities that a new technology can offer presents significant behavioural challenges. Hence, the adoption of legal technologies poses some highly important unanswered questions regarding the attitudes and behaviour or legal services professionals toward them.
The report aims to address this shortfall, and summarises the findings of a survey about the attitudes and beliefs of 656 solicitors in England and Wales concerning the adoption of lawtech.
The study, which was conducted online during February and March 2023, examined participants’ perceptions of the nature and extent of lawtech adoption, their attitudes and beliefs towards lawtech and the extent of their current and intended future usage of lawtech.
Key findings of the study
- The adoption of lawtech remains relatively limited and is driven by two principal motives:
- Improving the quality of legal services delivery; and
- Improving the efficiency of legal services delivery.
- There was an indifference toward technological advancement among many legal professionals and a lack of confidence in their ability to engage and experiment with lawtech.
- Although legal professionals saw the positive benefits of organisational adoption of lawtech in terms of increasing productivity, they were generally less convinced of the benefits to them personally.
- Perceptions of managerial and organisational support for lawtech adoption were negative or at best neutral.
- Participants had mixed perceptions about whether top managers considered lawtech a strategic priority and therefore worthy of investment and other forms of support.
- Similarly, perceptions of client satisfaction with lawtech provision were mixed. Almost half of the sample judged it to be fair to middling, with few respondents reporting that their clients are either very satisfied or very dissatisfied.
- Over half of the respondents reported using some type of lawtech at least weekly, although more than one third of the sample said that they didn’t use lawtech at all or used it infrequently.
Implications for lawtech adoption by the legal sector
These findings suggest several important actions for enabling the potential of lawtech to be realised throughout the legal services sector:
- The role of senior leadership is critical to the effective adoption of virtually any innovation and, reflecting this reality, the senior leaders of firms need to provide greater direction and momentum to lawtech initiatives.
- Organisational encouragement and support for lawtech need to be markedly improved, especially in the form of tangible and symbolic support on the part of senior managers.
- A strong business case is necessary, but not sufficient for the adoption of lawtech. Senior leaders need to pay attention to the development of a compelling case for the personal benefits of adoption for legal professionals.
- Organisational decision makers must ensure that the necessary resources are available to support the adoption of lawtech, not least mechanisms to provide technical service support to staff engaging with new technologies.