The Pace of Change (LawTech)

In this article Simon Blandy, Director of Governance, Policy and Legal at CILEx Regulation takes a look at recent LawTech developments including ChatGPT and what impact this and other initiatives are are having on today's legal sector

New technology continues to transform the way we work.  A survey commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority said that respondents reported that “the top five most prevalent types of legal technology currently in use are:

  • ‘videoconferencing with clients’ (87% of total respondents)
  • ‘storing data in the cloud’ (66%)
  • ‘practice management software’ (62%)
  • ‘legal research software’ (50%)
  • ‘e-verification/e-signature’ (37%).

“Future users regarded ‘increasing demand for our services’ as a more important purpose than ‘reducing the overall cost of service delivery’ or ‘increasing security and compliance’.”

The most significant barriers to adopting new technology were lack of financial capital, lack of staff expertise and regulatory uncertainty.  Some were uncertain about the expected business benefits, did not consider it a strategic priority or did not consider it was needed in their firm.

The regulatory barriers or uncertainty centred around:

  • Client confidentiality and data protection requirements
  • Professional indemnity insurance requirements
  • not knowing if wider regulation and legislation allow what they are considering.

Government and Government agencies have projects to facilitate innovation.  HM Land Registry’s Digital Street aims to make its data computer-readable making it easier for machines to access and read and for processes to be automated.  The Government’s Digital Identity Programme will provide a standards framework to help people prove their identity without having repeatedly to present physical documents.

LawTechUK has facilitated a number of programmes (eg Smarter Contracts) and published a discussion paper in January 2023 on the adoption of AI technology in legal services.  CRL is a member of its Regulatory Response Unit which brings together the UK’s legal services regulators and public bodies into a single collaborative forum and gives clarity to founders, tech suppliers and consumers to drive confident adoption of technology in the legal sector.  We have published a Waiver Policy.  This sets out our approach to granting waivers so that our regulatory framework does not restrict the use and development of novel forms of legal services provision for the benefit of consumers.

ChatGPT was launched in 2022.  The dialogue format enables it ‘to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests’.  It has provided its own summary (100 words) of the benefits of new technology for Chartered Legal Executives:

…including increased efficiency and productivity, access to information and data analytics, improved communication and collaboration, enhanced security and privacy, and improved client experience. By leveraging technologies such as document automation, case management software, and video conferencing tools, Legal Executives can streamline their work processes, work more effectively with their clients, and provide better legal services. Furthermore, with the increasing use of AI and ML technologies, Legal Executives can quickly analyze large amounts of data and gain insights into their clients’ cases, allowing them to make better-informed decisions and provide more valuable advice to their clients.

ChatGPT may have its teething problems with high street law.  Whilst it is unlikely to replace lawyers just yet, lawyers who pay insufficient attention to the pace and scale of innovation risk being replaced by lawyers who have embraced innovation, and AI in particular.


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