Panelists in a session on legal innovation discuss how technology is evolving the profession.

As industries by and large embrace waves of change spurred by technology, the legal profession, built upon hours of ardent research and laborious case crafting, is often considered resistant to the gadget-driven world. Yet amid a society increasingly defined by mobile devices, automated services and big data, clients are demanding legal services to be better, faster and cheaper.

Addressing these challenges was the focus of “Legal Innovation Summit,” a Sept. 23 panel at Grand Hyatt New York presented by business consultancy Invest Northern Ireland. Paramount among the difficulties facing law firms today, explained panelist Scott Kane, partner at Squire Patton Boggs, is efficiency.

“Law firms and lawyers have gotten away for a long time with not changing the ways they deliver their services,” he said, noting that a defining moment of change came around “the Great Recession.” During this period, clients began realizing they had purchasing power, and outside providers of legal services began taking their business.

So how can firms adapt to the change? Kane says to use technology when available, and to apply it to project management.

“A lot of firms better figure out the solution is not, ‘Let’s get a bunch of our associates in a conference room and figure out how we’re going to staff the project with brute force'” and a lot of billable hours, he added.

The wave of change also presents an opportunity for technology vendors, who, according to iManage senior counsel Clint Crosier, “should see themselves as the addition to the lawyer, not the replacement.”

“I think lawyers get very resistant when you say you’re going to replace them, and for good reason,” he said. Instead, technology “creates a better lawyer,” and with it, lawyers can spend more time doing lawyering than document management.

The changes wrought by technology pose challenges to the ways in which law schools are training the lawyers of tomorrow. Jonathan Askin, Brooklyn Law School professor and director of the school’s Law Incubator and Policy Clinic, noted that it’s “an interesting dilemma to figure out how lawyers fit into” the fast-paced, tech-driven world.

Askin said that for himself, the “wakeup call” came eight years ago, when he encountered the developers behind legal document sharing site Docacy who wanted to teach students how to automate documents. At first, he thought this far-fetched, though eventually realized “it’s inevitable.”

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