The legal industry, which is widely seen to be conservative and traditional, is currently entering a phase of deep transformation where technology promises to automatize basic tasks, simple services commoditized, and clients and professionals empowered with new innovative solutions.
The digitalization of the legal services industry has given birth to a new ecosystem composed of lawyers, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and professionals focusing on applying cutting edge technologies to transform the profession.
Legal technology, also known as legaltech, refers to the use of technology and software to help law firms with practice management, document storage, billing, accounting and electronic discovery. The term is often associated with technology startups providing access to tools and platforms that reduces or in some cases eliminates the need to consult a lawyer, or by connecting people with lawyers more efficiently through online marketplaces and lawyer-matching websites.
There are several factors that have contributed to the growth of legaltech, including the increasing cost and time pressure placed by clients on their lawyers, and the increasing incentives for lawyers to become technologically competent.
Additionally, the exponential growth in the volume of documents, and mostly emails, that must be reviewed for litigation cases has greatly accelerated the adoption of technology with elements of machine language and artificial intelligence (AI) being incorporated and cloud-based services being adopted by law firms.
Today, legaltech is rising all over the world and cover a wide range of services. Some are designed to help law firms acquire more clients. Others help them better serve current clients by helping them operate and provide legal services more efficiently.
Investment in legaltech is predominantly focused in the US with more than US$292 million invested in the US in 2015, according to CB Insights. Some of the country’s most notable legaltech companies include Relativity, formerly kCura, an e-discovery platform used by organizations to manage large volume of data and quickly identify key issues during litigation, internal investigations, and compliance projects, Rocket Lawyer, which provides individuals and small and medium-sized businesses with online legal services, and Axiom, an alternative legal services provider.
Now there are even legaltech companies specializing in divorces. US-based Wevorce, for instance, focuses on amicable divorces by providing a technology that speeds up the process while reducing the costs of divorce to between US$1,800 to US$10,000, or about one-third of the national average of a typical divorce.
Legaltech in Switzerland
Switzerland too has seen its own legaltech space rapidly expand in the past years. In 2016, the country welcomed the Swiss Legaltech Association to represent this thriving sector and help foster a proper ecosystem around legaltech.
The Swiss Legaltech Association was founded by Christoph Küng and Antoine Verdon, two startup entrepreneurs based in Zurich. Christoph Küng is the CEO of Skuani, a matching platform for experts in the legal industry, while Antoine Verdon is the founder of LegalHub, a legal document generator.
According to the organization, Switzerland has a rather developed legaltech ecosystem with companies providing anything from automated legal documents, law practice management software and predictive legal analytics, to online legal services, legaltech software, and lawyer search and marketplaces.
Swisslex offers the most comprehensive legal database for Switzerland.
Featured image: Legal gavel, Wikipedia.