The latest buzzword in legal and start-up circles seems to be ‘#LegalTech’. This term has constantly popped up at all the networking events that I have attended this summer. So, with such an increasing emphasis being placed on legal tech, and the growing number of legal tech start-ups emerging across the globe, I thought it would be good to explain what it is and why it is important for law students to take an interest in it.
What exactly is legal tech?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, legal tech is colloquial word for ‘Legal Technology’. It refers to the use of technology in the legal industry to streamline processes and services.
Although it isn’t a new concept, in recent years it has really taken off and become part of the mainstream vernacular. Similar to the Fintech (aka financial technology) revolution that happened in the finance and banking industry through the introduction of companies like Transferwise and other online banks, legal tech has revolutionised the way lawyers work, interact with their clients, how the public access legal services, and their affordability. Through the use of artificial intelligence and innovative software, clients are now able to connect with lawyers in real time, and law firms are able to reduce the turnaround time on providing contracts and more.
Not only does legal tech benefit lawyers and their clients, but it also improves the provision, quality, and delivery of legal services. Contrary to sceptics, legal tech is not trying to replace lawyers or steal jobs in the legal industry. Rather, it is complementing and making existing services more efficient.
Thanks to start-up communities like Legal Geek, technology no longer seems like a foreign concept as more law firms are embracing it. It is changing the perception of legal services and bringing it out of the dark ages.
Even my old alma mater, Ryerson University, has a legal tech incubator – the Legal Innovation Zone, specifically designed to attract legal tech start-ups and build better solutions for legal consumers. In partnership with students, lawyers, government members, and industry leaders, the Legal Innovation Zone has been able to foster and support many innovative legal solutions and start-ups, like LegalBox.
According to a recent report by Legal Geek and Thomson Reuters, ‘the UK legal services market is worth almost £26bn a year, and growing. Technology is making inroads into the way legal services are delivered but it remains early days and the potential to disrupt is enormous.’
What does all this mean for law students?
As a law student, you have probably asked yourself or have been asked countless times, ‘what do you intend to do with your law degree?’ If you are like me, the immediate answer is, to become a lawyer! However, not all law students want to follow that path. With limited spaces and ever-increasing competition for vacation schemes, training contracts, and pupillages, it is unlikely that every law graduate will become a barrister or solicitor. Therefore, what is a graduate with a student loan to pay back to do?
One answer could be legal tech! I believe, law students should embrace and take an active interest in legal tech, because it offers a wide range of career opportunities for law and non-law graduates interested in working in this sector.
The beautiful thing about studying law (yes, law is beautiful) is that it equips you with a unique, versatile and valuable skill set which is highly sought after in many professions and industries. The ability to think critically and analytically, conduct thorough research, write eloquently, formulate sound arguments and reasoning, are all skills that are important in any field.
Therefore, instead of restricting yourself to only two careers, you should be open to other opportunities. Remember, you do not have to be a lawyer to work in the legal services industry. By virtue of your law degree, you can work in areas such as compliance, risk management, business, legal tech, and more.
In a recent article, BPP lecturer and former City lawyer Charlie Radcliffe said ”Law students who are pursuing a City law career should show an interest in the business and commercial world, and to stay on top of the technological changes that are transforming the ways in which lawyers work.“ With more law firms embracing legal tech and supporting legal tech start-ups, you will also undoubtedly encounter or use legal technology at some point or another in your career.
This summer, I have been very fortunate to work as a Legal Intern at a start-up in London called Linkilaw. Linkilaw is a legal marketplace for start-ups, entrepreneurs and small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who need access to high quality and affordable legal services. Linkilaw helps these businesses grow, by providing bespoke and high-quality in-house legal solutions, and connecting clients to a large network of vetted and highly qualified solicitors.
In all honesty, I hadn’t considered working for a start-up until I came across the summer internship at Linkilaw. However, working here has exposed me to the world of legal tech and shown me how it can be a force for good, and make it easier for people to access these services. I have also gained a lot of hands on experience and learnt how start-ups can be managed.
Although, I still intend to become a lawyer, specifically a commercial lawyer specialising in helping start-ups and small businesses, my internship has given me insight into a career path I had never considered. Who knows, I may even start my own legal start-up in the future.
In conclusion, becoming a barrister or solicitor isn’t the only career path available to law students. Legal tech is a great industry for you to consider after university, and I’d encourage you to keep an open mind when planning your future.
If you are interested in finding out more about legal tech start-ups, Legal Geek has compiled a helpful map of companies in the UK here.
About our blogger
Oluwatobi (Tobi) Taiwo is a final year law student at the University of Leicester. She is currently doing a legal internship at London-based legal tech start-up, Linklaw. She loves learning about Law and keeping up-to-date with the latest legal news. She is very passionate about improving access to legal services and intends to become a commercial lawyer, specialising in helping start-ups and small businesses.
Fun fact: She used to be a competitive 100m & 200m sprinter and has lived in Nigeria, Australia, and Canada.