No one opposes the use of technology in the legal system on principle. In the worst-equipped courts in the country, lawyers of all ages reach for some kind of ‘smart’ device when faced with delays. They check emails, read material, arrange meetings, rejig diaries.
The dissonance between lawyers’ personal use of technology and its underuse in the legal system is therefore striking. One issue considered at the Gazette’s latest roundtable was whether closing the gap would dramatically improve access to justice. Ideas discussed included better legal information available on websites; online mediations; hearings via web-based video link; and software that allows clients to do more legwork on their own case.
All of these merit broader adoption. And yet, many will have noticed that use of technology can fulfil any number of Richard Susskind’s predictions without the granular feel of practice changing. That is why lawyers have generally been comfortable with the pace of change so far.
But let us not forget that it is the established superstructure of the law that is the key enabler: the courts, rules on costs, procedures, the quality and availability of advice, funding options and the fitness for purpose of relevant legislation. And it is in these areas that lawyers – and clients – are feeling the pain.
Technology can help, but it is no panacea.