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Legal tech is a tool, not magic

Change is the one thing we can always count on (death and taxes also fit that bill but let's not focus on those). Yet despite the permanence of change in our lives, as humans we are naturally resistant to it, and as lawyers we are very hesitant of it.

Legal technology and change are inextricably linked given innovation is the very root of technology: in this specific case, innovating stagnant ways of working. We often find that lawyers who are hesitant to adopt legal tech are deeply influenced by fear, specifically fear of change.

William Bremner, Head of Law Department Management at Consilio LLC, is an expert in legal tech. We asked him to demystify legal tech for those who find it all a bit overwhelming.

Bremner says that when tech is used appropriately, it reveals that lawyers are reactive, dealing with issues that have been answered many times before. "If you harness tech as a tool, it can allow you to be more conscious and strategic about where you spend your time."

He points out that many legal departments are taking on AI without a plan. "Legal tech is not a magical black box that you can throw stuff at and expect it to give you knowledge."

He believes AI is often adopted on faith and that it doesn't always deliver on its promise. Why? Because it isn't understood. People have unrealistic expectations of what value it will provide and where they can best apply it in an organization.

"It's crucial to understand that legal tech is a tool, and you need to decide where you want to apply it, what value you want, and test and measure outputs."

Knowing how to use legal tech best requires understanding why it was created in the first place. Legal tech is what Bremner calls a 'wave of change'. This wave is riding on the quick integration of technology into our everyday practices as lawyers - moving from paper to email, which significantly increased the amount of data lawyers need to manage. Bremner says this data has stripped away the mystique of lawyers as there is too much volume for them to process effectively.

If you want to make legal tech work for you and not become a point of frustration or confusion in your work-life, you must change how you view it. "Let the tech do the hard work for you," Bremner advises.

You can elevate your legal practice if you can see legal tech as a tool that releases you from monotonous low-value work. "Would you like to be working on a serious review and comparison of negotiation outcomes or clause level comparisons of contracts?" he quips.

Changing your mindset from one of 'tech is automating lawyers out of jobs' comes down to realizing it is giving you the opportunity to focus on meatier work.

Bremner also points out that digitizing your current way of working isn't enough. You must leverage technology to create better processes and systems for handling legal matters and data. It's simple - if you put crap into tech, you'll still get crap on the other side - but if you use it with intention and consideration, you'll get magic.

"Become a process owner rather than a process participant" is Bremner's terminology for this. In theory, a process owner would harness the data and insights aspect of legal technology to elevate their legal department.

"A lawyer can take the results AI presents it and create a playbook of best options for their business going forward."

That may look like seeing where common legal issues arise, forecasting resource demand, identifying a policy issue within the business or a need for training/upskilling. Essentially you have tech that can identify problems and lawyers who can innovate solutions.

"Take the knowledge legal tech gives you and push it out to the organization as a whole. Create chatbots that answer common FAQs before people even reach out to legal itself, or a repository of best practice responses," says Bremner.

Change is never easy. However, in the case of legal tech, if you assess its value logically, it's possible to see it bringing a change in your work life that can enhance your legal practice.

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