Our first event of 2018 was the Darwin Challenge: Defending Technology Adoption,  hosted by Evolve Law and Above the Law and sponsored by Wolters Kluwer, Integra Ledger, and VortexLegal. The Darwin Challenge provided a new twist on our old Darwin Talk format – instead of merely presenting their ideas, presenters would have to answer questions on their suggested pitch for legal tech.   Our challenge was moderated by Elie Mystal, Executive Editor of Above the Law, and innovators were made to defend their arguments to our expert panel, featuring Above the Law Tech Editor Joe Patrice, Wolters Kluwer VP Legal Markets, Innovation Dean Sonderegger, and Davis Wright Tremaine DeNovo Team Surge Specialist Ginni Chen.

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First up was VortexLegal CEO Jonathan Broder with a talk entitled “What Does Disruption Sound Like?” For as much as the word adoption is thrown about in legal circles, actual changes in legal technology in firms is hard to find. The timing has to be right for adoption to take hold, and circumstances have to be in your favor for adoption to even work. We’re in a unique time now where circumstances and resources (or lack thereof) are forcing innovation. Using technology to bridge the gap into areas of the law that are slow to change is an opportunity that legal tech can exploit.

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Next was Integra Ledger CTO David Berger on “Defending the Use of Blockchain in Law”.  Blockchain has become an overloaded term that holds a few different meanings depending on the context. As applied to the law, blockchain is a time-stamped ledger that records digital information and is protected by both cryptographic technology and its distribution on a peer-to-peer network that prevents a single point of failure. Much of the technology involved with blockchain is pre-existing and already accepted in the law in another for, so for those skeptical of the idea of the blockchain, it can be reconsidered as a  redeployment of what already exists into something new and more useful.  And as clients demand more efficiency from their law firms and legal departments, more and more lawyers will feel the pressure to adopt.

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The third innovator was LawDroid CEO Tom Martin with his talk “Useful Bots Help Lawyers Clone Themselves”. Bots help lawyers with the familiar challenge faced by any professional: not enough hours in the day.  We have about eight hours a day for work, and for lawyers, some portion of those hours are eaten up by administrative tasks and business development.  And revenue decline across law firms is placing additional pressure upon lawyers with the rates they can charge.  With all of these challenges, lawyers don’t have time to chat online with potential new clients. Chatbots using AI can help to answer questions and walk potential clients through the services offered by a lawyer or firm, as well as prequalify people, gather relevant information and fill out documents based upon the answers provided in the chat. Chatbots provide an immediate answer to questions at the user’s convenience.

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The final innovator was Seventh Samurai Principal Mike Simon on”Let’s Teach Lawyers NOT to Code”. Some in the legal profession assert that lawyers are facing an existential threat from artificial intelligence and technology and that the solution to this problem is to have lawyers become technologists. These same people would lay out a future that could alternately be a world where lawyers are augmented by technology or one where lawyers have been entirely replaced by technology. As it stands, we find ourselves looking towards a landscape where, while robots can’t be lawyers, the things that robots can do can’t be considered lawyering. So while having lawyers learn to be technologists would seem to make sense, it misses the point that lawyers are best served acting strictly as lawyers; learning the skills of coding is difficult, and lawyers could never hope to be as good as those who have it as their sole profession. Whereas in their capacity as lawyers, they can lend their expertise to help develop new technology and provide oversight and knowledge where technology might fall short.

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Thanks to our panelists, innovators, sponsors, and all who attended for a lively evening of discussion on the future of legal tech. Be sure to check out the Evolve Law events page to find out where our next events will be.

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