The Global Legal Hackathon last weekend (23–25 February 2018) offered an excellent opportunity to grasp the potential that can be released from cooperation between lawyers and IT specialists. Legal Tech solutions are more than just technological novelties. They are solutions that can protect our legal system against a serious crisis.
The true value of Legal Tech can be grasped only when we realise the point where contemporary legal systems now stand. We are observing unprecedented proliferation of regulations and complication of the legal system. The existing methods for enacting, applying and enforcing laws have ceased to function. Traditional legislators cannot keep up with the pace of technological development, the contracts and legal opinions lawyers draft are harder and harder to understand, and litigation drags out endlessly as judges have difficulty mastering increasingly complex fact patterns.
It’s so bad we’re beginning to ask ourselves whether the law still serves and realises the aims for which it was created. It should contribute to building order and a sense of justice, but sometimes we get the impression that it forms an alien reality, understandable only to a narrow and hermetic circle of lawyers. If we don’t do anything to address this, we are threatened by consequences that are hard to fathom. Frustration will increase across the society. The economy will be suffocated by regulations effectively limiting its growth and reducing its competitiveness. In consequence, alternative systems will begin to develop, attempting to establish order by other means. The seeds of such thinking can already be seen for example in some projects developed on public blockchains. Solutions are being created there providing for alternative legal orders not subject to any traditional jurisdiction, with their own protocols for resolving disputes.
If we don’t want the legal system to collapse under its own weight, we must do some soul-searching and reassessment, and open up to non-standard thinking and solutions. This is where Legal Tech comes in. The law needs technologies automating at least some processes. It appears that technologies supporting the work of legal practitioners are currently the most advanced. There are more and more solutions streamlining and automating the process of drafting and analysing documents. Legal information systems are steadily expanding. But this is just the start. We shouldn’t limit our thinking about Legal Tech to these types of technologies. We should think much more boldly and consider how technology can be employed to streamline the process of creating and enforcing the law. Perhaps in some areas the paradigms we have followed for centuries will have to change—for example that law is created by the state and enforced by judges.
The future of the law now depends in huge measure on technology. Thus it is in everyone’s interest to support the development of Legal Tech solutions. I hope that the Global Legal Hackathon will prove to be just one of many events bringing this about.