The legal sector has operated in the same way for decades and technological advancements that have become central to the development of other industries have now left it falling behind its competitors.
The sector is not unaware of the potential for advancements like artificial intelligence and blockchain to increase the efficiency and accuracy of internal systems, but the enthusiasm tends to fade when it comes to practical implementation.
With technological innovation having now reached a stage where it can provide a legitimate vision for how the sector can be modernised to improve the delivery of services, it is important for law firms and corporations alike to stop ignoring the potential benefits.
The arrival of advanced security means law firms can now concentrate their efforts to innovate with more confidence. One crucial reason why they haven’t to date is that trust is imperative in the justice system and weak security presents too much of a risk. Most will still remember the first years of the Internet, which were plagued by viruses and fraud because companies persevered without properly considering the associated risks.
Many now believe blockchain can be a game-changer, working to increase the transparency of cases, whilst improving the delivery of services through the secure use of digital evidence software. Blockchain can be used to collect data on every transaction that occurs in the storage of an item, providing a full audit trail combined with a secure cloud-based platform for sharing sensitive data.
This means that once a piece of evidence has been entered into the online system it cannot be altered or falsified. This is down to a unique combination of cryptography which renders the data immutable, and then its openness, which is how it is distributed among a peer-to-peer set of participants. Crucially, whist blockchain is a public artefact, inspection of blockchain wouldn’t reveal evidence, only IDs and hash codes, creating an incorruptible digital ledger.
As a result, it’s possible that going forward there will be no doubt whether the evidence presented in a court room is the same as the original file that was initially uploaded into the digital evidence software system, removing questions of legitimacy from the trial process. This eliminates any possibility that evidential material submitted to court can be repudiated as it is not possible to photoshop a picture or splice a video.
Similarly, courts are now recognising the possibilities of digital evidence management systems, which have the potential to lead to the elimination of paper in the trial environment. A key focus has fallen on paper as it becomes increasingly burdensome. While the initial purchase price of a piece of paper is well below 1p, once other factors are taken into consideration such as storage and transport, it can end up costing as much as 25p per page. When court room bundles regularly contain thousands of pages, it’s no wonder digitising the process of bundling becomes a priority.
When a case is taken to court numerous bundles have to be produced and individually amended throughout the trial which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Switching to e-bundles not only addresses environmental concerns, but also reduces this significant expense and makes the process of amending bundles and keeping them up to date far easier. By referring to a centralised bundle, all parties in court can rest assured that they are referring to the same page in a trial, with the most up to date evidence — a process that is not always possible when juggling ten different lever arch files.
As with all sectors when a period of change has dawned, many are reluctant to alter the established system and become hesitant to innovate. However, the legal system is under pressure from budget cuts and increased competition between firms. A digital drive can transform the shape of law firms and how they operate, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of proceedings, enabling them to remain competitive and match growing demand.
Establishing a hybrid workforce and augmenting legal experts with automated processes means that firms will be able to use technology to free up lawyers from tedious tasks. It is this automation of the more mundane, and time-intensive tasks, that will accelerate processes and reclaim a firm’s resources. This not only increases efficiency in law offices, but also in court — using a digital system allows for quicker access to evidence, remote working and no fuss over bundles, cutting down trial time and freeing up court room space in an overstretched system.
Through adopting a unified user-friendly system that meets the needs and requirements of all parties involved, legal proceedings and trial processes will become more efficient, accurate and reliable, positioning the UK’s justice system as one of the most advanced in the world.
Keynes once remarked that the “difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas, as in escaping from old ones”. For the legal sector, overcoming that difficulty will be its next test.
About the Author
This submitted article was written by Alice Bonasio, technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired.