For an industry that only found its footing around 20-years ago, technology sure has a lot to answer for. From changing the way we socialize, to making it impossible to navigate without the aid of a phone, we use the term ‘disruption’ as a catch-all term to explain the breakneck speed at which things are changing. No industry has felt these changes as acutely as the legal profession. As a sector renowned for being built on tradition, how will the legal industry fare in the face of disruption?
Developments in technology often happen quicker than the law can keep up with. Just look at the way employment law has failed to keep up with employers vetting potential candidates on their social media profiles. While it’s illegal to discriminate based on religion, sexual preference or political affiliation, there is nothing to stop employers dismissing job seekers based on their beliefs, looks, or the company they keep. This is only one example, here are five other ways the legal profession has been turned on its head thanks to technology.
Family Law: The DIY Divorce
Divorces are infamously messy and can often take months or even years of drawn out arbitration with paperwork shuffling back and forth between each side’s representation. This process can now be handled in a mere six weeks. DIY divorces are on the rise and more and more estranged couples are looking to this cheap and cheerful option to dissolve their unions, divide their assets and make arrangements for their children. Clearly, this is only an option is amicable divorce settlements when the particulars have already been agreed by both parties, but if it can save those couples money and time, it is surely a move in the right direction.
Immigration Law: Online Applications
In the wake of the Brexit vote, thousands of EEA citizens were left wondering their fate in the face of the UK leaving Europe. To secure their places, they would have to apply for indefinite leave to remain, but with over 3.5 million affected, how would the already weary immigration system cope? The solution was for the Home Office to quietly pilot an online application process that would replace an exhausting 85-page form that had to be returned by snail mail to the Home Office for processing. While applicants will still have to fill out the form with the same level of detail, this time spent processing the form will decrease, along with the possibility of spelling mistakes or clerical errors holding up a case.
Probate: Digital Legacies
While Probate law once dealt with physical entities such as land, assets and possessions, the rise of digital property has raised a lot of questions about who owns our digital legacy after we die. Many people are reconsidering how they purchase music, books and films in light of the new understanding that these digital assets cannot be passed on in your will. When we purchase digital products, we don’t own a physical thing, instead we are buying a license that expires with us.
This means that online music libraries cannot be left in your will, and anyone hoping to leave behind this sort of musical legacy will have to make alternative arrangements to purchase and store the same music in a physical format. This is particularly problematic when we consider that iTunes has admitted to replacing music you already own with their version of the same thing when you agree to the lengthy user agreement.
Conveyancing: Tech Startups Reign
If you thought property searching sites were sufficiently disrupting the homeowners industry, the proof that there is always room for change comes in the form of tech-led conveyancing companies. While homeowners hoping to sell would have once had to seek the services of conveyancing solicitors, the rise of digital conveyancing services is all set to distrust this industry. Rather than the tech startups taking a chunk of the market, law firms are realigning themselves as tech startups to take advantage of the paradigm shift.
Debt Collection: The Friendlier Solution
Taking advantage of the vast swathes of data available, debt collection is getting smarter and friendlier thanks to technology. Unfortunately, the law has yet to catch up with technology. While many companies have embraced that mobile phones are ubiquitous and far more reliable for reaching debtors and for building strong relationships before a debt becomes overdue. The majority of these processes can also be automated, meaning that debt collection as we know it is rapidly changing.