What Legal Technologies Do Students Need to Be Aware of?

Legal tech is quickly becoming a top priority in the legal sector, and more so for the future generations of legal professionals.

This week Lawyer Monthly benefits from expert insight into developing technology in the legal sector as Francine Ryan, lecturer in law and member of the Open Justice Centre at The Open University, discusses the kinds of tech all law students should be aware of.

I wrote a previous article on the 7 Key Tech Skills for Law Students which reflected on how technology is transforming the practice of law and changing the delivery of legal services and the administration of justice. It is important law students master basic technology skills, but students also need to be aware of the incredible pace of technological change and how it will impact on their future workplace. This article introduces four technologies to encourage law students to find out more about emerging technologies and how they are changing the digital landscape.

Digital reality

Digital reality is a term used to describe augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), the Internet of Things (IoT) and immersive technologies. Digital reality offers authentic and immersive experiences; significant advances in tools and capability are being made impacting on gaming, films and entertainment. VR is being used for the gamification of training, at The Open University our law students use VR to develop presentation skills. Students enter VR to deliver a presentation in a school, prison or community setting to an audience of avatars, who ask questions and react in ways one might expect from school children! VR can also be used to develop court room skills, law students may find themselves developing professional skills through VR. Law students need to be aware and recognise some of the potential legal issues that surround digital reality including data protection, privacy, copyright and product liability.


Blockchain began as concept in computer science. It works by keeping a record of all data exchanges, which are called ledgers or transactions, each data exchange is added to the ledger and is known as a ‘block’. A peer to peer network of nodes verifies each transaction and once verified the new transaction is added to the Blockchain and cannot be changed. Blockchain first became known through its relationships to cryptocurrencies but now new ways are being looked at to consider how a distributed ledger maybe used by law firms. It is still very early days but potential is seen for the use of Blockchain in property transactions and smart contracts.

Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI and ML although related, are not exactly the same thing. AI is a branch of computer science that enables the creation of intelligent machines that work and think like human beings. Machine learning is key part of AI, it analyses, understands and identifies patterns in the data to allow a computer to complete an automated task using data to create an algorithm that understands the relationship between the input and the output. Once the machine has completed the learning it can make predictions or decisions without being specifically programmed to do so and is able to analyse huge amounts of data. Robotics is also a field that is connected to AI. In a legal context there are complex issues with AI and ML but larger firms are now adopting this technology, for example in document review, legal research, and predicting legal outcomes. Significant investment is required to develop these legal tech solutions and it is still early days but law students need to be aware of processes of automation and the impact of machines to make decisions.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing has seen the demise of the hard drive, data and files are now stored remotely in the cloud, which is in fact a physical server in somewhere far, far away!! Life without a hard drive is liberating, you store all your files in one place and access them from multiple devices. Many law firms now use cloud-based practice management systems, such as Clio, which is used by The Open University Law Clinic because it gives access to everything from one platform and often brings lower costs for firms, allowing to make the most of their IT budgets. Security, confidentiality and compliance with data protection legislation are issues, law students need to be aware as cloud computing becomes more widely adopted.

To find out more about the number of Law-Tech start-ups in Europe access the Legal Geek Startup Map 250 startups are listed, the map is interactive allowing the profile and information on each startup to be viewed. To find out more about Law-Tech, read the Lawtech Adoption Research Report from The Law Society, join the Society for Computers and Law  and engage in a discussion on how technology is shaping the law.

1 Comment
  1. Kai Hellstrom says

    Automation is going to have a massive impact on the legal sector but is really positive way. It’s going to remove the administrative burden while ensuing compliance processes are followed, freeing up more time to deal with clients, get to the problem of any issues and move law forward.

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