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How tech has influenced the legal sector

15th September 2015

Technology advances in the law industry

Technology has reshaped almost everything we do, like the way we communicate and do business, but it has also had an impact on the legal sector.

Lawyer jobs and other legal positions have changed dramatically from a decade ago as lawyers, legal secretaries, paralegals and other legal professionals have been forced to get familiar with word processing, spreadsheets, telecommunications, databases and legal research software.

Here we take a look at how technology has and still is affecting lawyers as well as management strategies in law firms across the UK.

Social media

Social media

The rise and rise of social media has affected lawyers and a recent article on managing Facebook accounts is a prime example.

In this case, Facebook revealed that people in the UK can now appoint an online executor to manage their profile after they die, which is something lawyers have to be aware of should clients come to them with queries. The Law Society also advises legal professionals to keep up-to-date with new developments in social media that could affect cases.

A study by the International Bar Association previously revealed that 90 per cent of respondents found that online social media networks have presented a new set of challenges for legal professionals.

As well as individual lawyers and legal professionals being affected, more and more legal firms are now having a social media presence to inform clients of new law changes and to potentially attract new clients.

Courtroom technology

Courtroom technology

An increasing number of courtrooms in the UK are now equipped with digital equipment and the reliance on paper is slowly beginning to diminish.

As this article on gov.uk described back in 2013, the government has been investing millions to create digital courtrooms and to improve IT systems.

Now most courts have access to Wifi to allow the prosecution, defence, judiciary and court staff to access all necessary court documents at the touch of a button. Digital evidence screens are also present in court houses.

At the time, Justice Minister Damian Green said, “Every year the courts and Crown Prosecution Service use roughly 160 million sheets of paper. Stacked up this would be the same as fifteen Mount Snowdon’s – literally mountains of paper. If we are to win in the global race this must change; it is time we move the court system into the 21st century.”

If you read this article on differences between US and UK legal systems, you will see the US has gone a step further than the UK and allows court cases to be aired on television.

Law firm technology

Now e-billing is common practice in law firms where invoices are sent via email instead of the traditional paper invoices being used.

Law firms now all have websites and most have legal blogs, both important for advertising their services. Law firms are also storing case files electronically instead of in paper files like they used to.

Legal databases

In today’s legal world, no matter whether you are in a permanent or temporary legal position, the most common method of legal research for professionals is to use a number of legal databases, such as Eclipse, to perform searches, verify case law and track data.

Legal jobs and interviews

Skype

With the rise of social media, jobs are no longer advertised just on traditional media and instead are posted on Twitter accounts, through legal firms’ Facebook pages and on legal companies’ LinkedIn profiles.

Legal interviews are also being influenced by technology as although it is still rare, some candidates are being interviewed via Skype. However, this generally only occurs if a candidate is unable to physically get to the interview.

Image Credit: Jason Howie, Penn State Law, Sam Azgor (flickr.com)