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Legal tech landscape remains ‘highly fragmented’, Law Society report claims

Awareness of cutting edge legal tech remains limited among senior managers at law firms with a quarter unaware of most emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to a report from the Law Society.

At least 25% of respondents to the Capturing Technological Innovation report were unaware of key developments such as AI, predictive analytics or natural language processing, while 75% were completely unaware of legal tech provider RAVN, and 64% had not heard of IBM Watson.

The Law Society found there were more than 600 new tech products aimed at the legal profession launched in 2015. The report noted legal innovation remained ‘highly fragmented, and many start-ups offer solutions to very specific, singular problems’.

Clifford Chance (CC) chief information officer Paul Greenwood told Legal Business: ‘A lot of these tools are very new and it is taking time to filter through in terms of awareness, but in a couple of years that will change dramatically.’

Last year, CC signed a partnership with AI provider Kira and the firm now uses the technology across practice areas including corporate and litigation. Greenwood added: ‘There are a number of AI providers but no-one has a dominant market share yet.’

Linklaters chief information officer Matt Peers said that although the legal sector is ‘perceived as playing catch-up’ on technology, feedback from lawyers at the firm ‘gives us a very clear steer that they expect us to be investing in technology that supports the way we deliver to clients’.

Linklaters recently implemented a global innovation steering committee that has been piloting new internal initiatives such as teaching lawyers the coding language Python.

A number of small firms have joined the rush to experiment with emerging technologies. The report picked out the bitcoin and digital currency boutique Selachii and Taylor Vinters, which has formed a joint venture with AI provider ThoughtRiver.

Law Society president Robert Bourns said in the report: ‘The legal profession is sometimes characterised as resistant to change. This is unfair. We change to provide value to clients, but preserve essential elements of professional behaviour. This report shows us a very different profession, one with energy and ideas, ready to promote a revolution in how we deliver legal services.’

To read more on artifical intelligence and the law, subscribers can read ‘Deep blue sky thinking: the cutting edge of legal AI.’