Law firms in Wales must embrace new technology before their business model is threatened, the country’s chief legal officer has said. However the yawning gap between the scale of firms in the Cardiff area and those in the rest of the country means that many practices lack the resources to modernise.  

’It’s not just about technology, it’s about culture change and willingness to adapt and that is the heart of the problem,’ Jeremy Miles AM, counsel general for Wales, said.

Miles was speaking at a seminar held by the National Assembly for Wales on the challenges presented by artificial intelligence and automation to legal services in Wales and the broader economy they serve. The event was hosted by Lee Waters AM and included contributions from Eluned Morgan, minister for lifelong learning and digital skills as well as representatives from business and higher education.

Adam Curtis from Hoowla, an online case management and secure conveyancing platform, said that technology companies, the legal community, the Welsh government and law schools need to work together to help smaller firms adapt to the digital economy and equip current and future lawyers with the skills they need. The main issues are geographical and cultural, as the bigger firms tend to be based in and around Cardiff, while legal services for the rest of Wales depend on small, local firms, which mostly do not have the resources or culture for digital transformation, or even training in basic tech skills.

Chris Marshall, director at Swansea University’s Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, which has just introduced an LLM in LegalTech, called for ‘coalitions of expertise’ between government agencies, academic institutions and legal enterprises, to ensure that Welsh legal services can support the economic regeneration that is already happening and attract the next generation of talented lawyers to Wales.

Marshall highlighted the need for government agencies to help legal services become more resilient and embrace change, perhaps in the form of innovation funding. ’Law needs the same stimulus and support as engineering, environment and life sciences, which are now big drivers of the Welsh economy,’ he said.