A fascinating article discussing the current state of legaltech was published by Forbes in mid-January (2019). The article mentioned how America’s justice system is still largely operating in the dark ages, at least where technology is concerned, and how legaltech is poised to change that. The writer and his interviewee even seemed to suggest we are headed toward an era of automated justice.
Automated justice? Yes, as in an app that will be “assigned to deal with minor court hearings and do the work of lawyers and paralegals, who will rely on technology and be much less expensive and much more efficient.” If that’s not strange enough, the article went on to question the validity of our jury system in the technology era.
So what do you think? Is it possible that legal tech will eventually lead us to a place of automated justice? Let’s hope not. The legal system does need a technological overhaul, but the day justice becomes automated is the day we take the human element out of law and order.
The Current State of Legaltech
Legaltech innovators in 2019 are focusing mainly on developing cloud-based legal case management software. Take NuLaw, for example. Built on the popular Salesforce CRM platform, NuLaw offers law firms a range of automated tools along with secure communications, a document library, research tools, and more. The entire package makes administering a law office more efficient and more productive.
Developing these kinds of software tools does bring the legal profession out of the dark ages of administration. It encourages lawyers to consolidate their data in one place; it encourages better use of research tools; it streamlines case management by tracking individual cases in much the same way construction projects are tracked through project management software.
In short, legaltech innovations in case management software can make a law office more productive without eliminating the human factor. And that is important.
Clients Want to Speak to Lawyers
What is the most important aspect of the attorney-client relationship? You could make the case that it is personalized communication. It is that initial meeting when the client sits down to speak with an attorney face-to-face. It consists of the many phone calls back and forth.
The danger of automated justice is removing the human element. If clients are no longer speaking with attorneys who have been replaced by chat bots, they no longer have that human connection. Once that human connection is lost, it is extremely difficult to get back.
Clients want to hear the reassuring words of their attorneys as well. No matter where a given case is at any moment in time, clients want to know that their attorneys are on top of things. An automated e-mail isn’t going to cut it.
Clients Want Human Decisions
The idea of automated justice eventually leads to the unavoidable place of legal decisions being made by machines. Although the Forbes article explicitly stated that technology probably will not completely replace human judges, attorneys and juries, does anyone really know that for sure?
The restaurant industry claimed two decades ago that machines would never replace clerks standing at the counter. But that is exactly what’s starting to happen. More and more fast and fast-casual restaurants are replacing staff members with ordering kiosks.
No, this is not what clients want. They want human judges making decisions. They want human attorneys representing them and human juries who understand the human element of law. They do not want automated justice that spins on the wheels of algorithms and data analytics. Hopefully we will never see that kind of justice in America.