Legal Technology

'Law is broken.' Will these legal tech gurus bring about change?


Corrected: “The law is broken, change is coming.”

So said Axiom Law Managing Director Henry Jones at a one-day session not for the many U.S. lawyers clinging to a century-old model for legal services, but for a crowd of tech geeks who say they are leading a law revolution.

Forty speakers presented their visions of future law at ReinventLaw, a daylong conference in Silicon Valley last week. Led by Michigan State University law professors Dan Katz and Renee Newman Knake, the fast-paced event alternated between 6-minute slideshow presentations and longer 15-minute talks designed to teach, inspire and promote changes that will redefine the construction and delivery of legal services.

And given the significance of a conference held in Google’s backyard, greater open and affordable (or free) access to information was also a common thread throughout the day at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

“Lawyers are regulated to the point where it stifles innovation,” Knake told the ABA Journal. “There is a resistance among educators that if lawyers give away too much information, people won’t want their services.”

For the computer programmers, academics, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at ReinventLaw, the future of legal practice includes Apple store-inspired legal retail outlets where law concierges readily answer questions and pair consumers with local lawyers. Gone will be days when individual cases are largely viewed as unique fact sets: Litigation will be driven by massive data sets that guide strategy and predict outcomes. And that information won’t be amassed in spreadsheets. Instead, it will be displayed by beautiful and engaging visual graphics easily understood by lawyers and clients.

Legal work will continue to be deconstructed and amassed globally by specialists and machines geared for greater efficiency and accuracy. Outside investors, currently barred from profit-sharing within U.S. law firms, are closely watching the successful deregulation of practice in the UK with aims to push for similar change here.

Knake and Katz are betting that law firms, new-model legal service providers and clients will clamor for the services of graduates of their MSU “Law Laboratory,” sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, which offers classes that teach practicing attorneys and students hard technical and digital skills and ways to adapt them to their practices.

The need for such training may be one thing attendees learned at the sessions. The fast pace and wide-ranging programming did have some in the audience confused about jargon and how the issues presented would relate to their practices.

But support for Katz and Knake’s vision was palpable among the casually dressed crowd of roughly 400 lawyers, vendors, academics and self-identified legal technologists.

However, while the profession largely acknowledges the reverberations of a paradigm shift, how quickly will it let go of an aging and costly system?

A complete list of speakers can be found here, and portions of the talks will be posted online next month at ReInventLaw.com. A Twitter commentary of the event can be viewed by searching #ReInventlaw.

Two more large-scale ReinventLaw events are scheduled for London in June and New York in November.

Corrected at 12:14 p.m. to correct the identification of Henry Jones.

See also:

Strategic Legal Technology: “Reverse Engineering Legal Logic (Live from ReInventLaw)”

Am Law Daily: “The Future of Law as Seen From Silicon Valley”

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