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24 July 2019

Steeles Law encourages legal sector to take up the technology gauntlet

The Lord Mayor of London used his annual speech at the Judges Dinner last week to encourage the UK Legal Sector to reignite its determination to pursue ways of using technology to improve the profession and, more pertinently, its clients’ experience.

Mayor Peter Estlin highlighted the legal sector’s innovative use of AI and machine learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of completing monotonous, administrative form-based tasks, to emphasise a need to embrace new technologies in other aspects of legal practice and to ensure the UK remains a global leader.

He also referred to the monumental strides taken in terms of gender equality in law since the Sex Disqualification Removal Act came into force 100 years ago; an act which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. It is thanks to this Act, that today: there is now a ratio of 50:50 male and female solicitors. He then claimed that technology is now an issue of similar importance that should be pressed with the same level of urgency, to avoid being left behind.

He commented:

“The Law Society has found that adoption of technology amongst UK legal firms remains limited, meaning that the capabilities and benefits of these technologies are yet to be fully harnessed”.

But what does any of this really mean for local law firms and their clients in Norfolk and further afield though?

There is undoubtedly a lot more that we, as local lawyers, could be doing and, hopefully, some of the following practices will become much more commonplace (in fact, the norm) in the not-too-distant future:

  • E-signing of contracts – doing away with the need for the “quill and ink” pen that some still insist upon
  • Electronic-only Client onboarding processes (collecting satisfactory ID and money laundering information) – meaning that clients are not harangued for reams of information, unless absolutely necessary
  • Streamlining of previously paper based legal work – such as online disclosure processes, relating to business sales and purchases.

The most important consequence of initiatives such as these, must surely be that the client’s experience should be improved – and hopefully made more timely. After all, the lack of speed of response is one of the issues that clients still complain about most.

In order for this to happen though, there is a real onus on lawyers to embrace and relish the prospect of change and the increased use of technology where appropriate, with the genuine desire to improve service levels. The Lord Mayor has laid down the gauntlet; it’s now down to us to take up the challenge!