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UK lawtech not yet disruptive, new research shows

Lawtech in the UK has a long way to go if it is to reach its potential, the Law Society of England and Wales said as it launched new research into the development and adoption of sector-specific technology.

In its Lawtech Adoption Report, the Law Society explores the UK’s burgeoning lawtech sector and highlights key developments in this area and what this means for the legal profession and the business of law.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “A range of drivers is accelerating development and adoption of lawtech, from an escalating need for efficiency, increasing workloads and complexity of work to client pressure on costs and shorter turnaround times.

“Some of the most notable growth areas are legal analytics, legal project management, governance and compliance and contract management.

“Lawtech in the UK is largely focused on efficiencies and automation rather than on delivering ‘new types of law’. As such it is less mature than other fields of digital disruption – such as fintech, where there is more funding and regulatory alignment.”

The business-to-business legal services market is the most mature, particularly within large law firms, where AI and machine learning-driven applications are ubiquitous. Some of the more established areas include collaboration tools, document management, IP management and e-billing.

The business-to-consumer legal market seems to be lagging behind. There is most traction in those law firms that are delivering large-scale commoditised services, where automation is principally all about driving efficiencies. For instance, chatbots, DIY law, robo-lawyers and triage tools are all becoming more common with a greater focus on the consumer experience.

“Our research found that law firms face barriers to adoption of many lawtech solutions that are fundamental to the industry, such as risks around compliance, the partnership and billable hours models,” Christina Blacklaws said.

“After several years of start-up activity, the sector is now ripe for a wave of consolidation and later stage funding. Adopting and pioneering new technologies will give firms a strong competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving legal services market.”

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