The Impact of Technology on the Law

Kendall Coffey: Technology and the Legal Profession

Later this month, the Florida Bar will hold its Annual Convention in Boca Raton, in what will be a fantastic opportunity to gauge the pulse of the legal industry. This year’s Convention promises to place an emphasis on legal technology and innovation, which speak to the 2015 theme: “Charting a Course for the Future.” Legal technology is certainly becoming even more relevant as more technological advancements create opportunities, as well as pose challenges, for law professionals.

Florida Bar President Gregory W. Coleman believes that technology is transforming the legal profession, and he isn’t alone. Many legal experts have pointed not only to the vast array of challenges that technology creates – including the growing rate of cyber crimes that the law hasn’t found a way to catch up with yet – as well as the abundance of law technology that has the power to help simplify and improve various legal processes.

Because the use of word processing, database technology, telecommunications, presentation, and legal software have become commonplace, there is now pressure for lawyers and other legal professionals to utilize and become proficient in the many technological resources that exist today. Legal careers expert Sally Kane points out that “As advances in law technology revolutionize today’s legal landscape, the role of the legal professional has evolved.” She also explains that “Law technology has impacted every aspect of the legal field, from law firm and corporate practice to courtroom operation and document management,” which suggests that lawyers must find a way to incorporate law technology into their practice as a way to remain competitive and forward-thinking amid a rapidly changing legal climate.

Vivek Wadhwa, a Fellow at Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, strongly suggests that laws and ethics can’t keep up with technology, which is another way in which technological advancements have complicated the profession. In an article for the MIT Technology Review, Wadhwa writes,

“Employers can get into legal trouble if they ask interviewees about their religion, sexual preference, or political affiliation. Yet they can use social media to filter out job applicants based on their beliefs, looks, and habits. Laws forbid lenders from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality. Yet they can refuse to give a loan to people whose Facebook friends have bad payment histories, if their work histories on LinkedIn don’t match their bios on Facebook, or if a computer algorithm judges them to be socially undesirable.”

Wadhwa goes on to explain that “These regulatory gaps exist because laws have not kept up with advances in technology.” He also notes that these gaps are continually getting wider as technology develops at a rapid pace. What’s more, the legal disconnect is not just happening in employment and lending, but in every single industry and social domain that technology touches (and you’d be hard-pressed to create a list of jobs and social scenarios where technology doesn’t play a role).

It is vital that conversations about technology and the law continue to be the focal point of annual conventions and summits, so that legal professionals may continue to find ways to use technological resources to their advantage in the future.

Resources and further reading:

“Technology and the Law” by Sally Kane

“How Technology is Changing the Practice of Law” by Blair Janis

“Laws and Ethics Can’t Keep Pace with Technology by Vivek Wadhwa