Technology and legal services

11 December 2018




Introduction

The legal market faces challenges. People and small businesses who use legal services need better access to more affordable legal services. We know that many people find it difficult to identify that they have a legal problem. The cost of legal services can be a barrier to people receiving professional advice. Smart use of new technologies can help law firms address this unmet legal need by reducing costs and helping people find information. For law firms that serve large and often global businesses, there is increasing pressure to do more for less and an increasing expectation that the use of technology will make legal work quicker and more efficient.

We know that firms are increasingly using technology to deliver better services to clients. This report gives an overview of how technology is helping to drive innovation in legal services and gives real-life examples.

It shows how artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used to improve and enhance – not replace – the work of human lawyers. And it discusses how we can help those we regulate to take advantage of the new technologies.

Our regulation is based on the outcomes that firms achieve, not on the tools that firms use to meet them. The duty of confidentiality, for instance, applies to an email just as it applies to a letter or conversation. Although we do not intend to impose specific rules on how firms should use AI, the SRA Principles and Code of Conduct still apply to firms using AI.

One major difference between AI and older computer technologies is that AI can learn and develop. Just as firms train, supervise and review the output of their trainees and other staff, so they should train, supervise and review the output of intelligent machines.

This paper includes information on:

  • the advantages of using advanced technology in legal services
  • how technology and AI is already being used in legal services and the ethical issues to consider
  • the role regulation plays in encouraging the use of new technology
  • the steps you can take to make sure the technology is used safely, which we have written in conjunction with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

We hope that you will find it useful to see our view of the opportunities and risks from the technological possibilities.

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For more information

The NCSC offers more advice and information about using IT safely on their website. They have produced a specific guide on security for smaller businesses, for who they also recommend the ICO's guidance on information security.

Small businesses may wish to take up certification under the Cyber Essentials scheme. For larger businesses and those who feel they may be at particular risk of cybercrime, the 10 Steps to Cyber Security schemecan help to develop their defences further.

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