Matheson hosted an event on 23 February 2023 on the impact of recent developments in legal technology on the practice of law. John Armour, Professor of Company Law and Corporate Finance at Oxford University spoke about the findings from his recent research project designed to understand the dynamics of tech adoption in professional services, specifically legal services. Kyle Gribben, head of Matheson's Digital Services Group, Alma Campion, partner in the Finance and Capital Markets Department at Matheson and Shay Lydon, partner in the Asset Management and Funds Department at Matheson spoke about Matheson's direct engagement with legal tech and its benefits for clients in terms of efficiency and cost effectiveness.
An overarching theme of the discussion was that advanced technology is best deployed within multi-disciplinary teams of people with a mix of legal and non-legal skills. Professor Armour said that the challenge is like that of creating a production line for technology-enabled legal services. Contrary to concerns that the use of advanced technology might displace legal professionals, the consensus was that a legal services delivery pipeline only substitutes technology at the point of output. The lawyer features at various stages in the process, from the producer who explains what is required to the process mapping expert, to the consumer to whom the outputs are explained. Similarly, data scientists and legal expertise are required at the design, data ingestion and review stages of the process. There is also a need for overall project management.
Kyle Gribben further developed this theme by addressing whether this amalgamation of legal and non-legal skills occurred naturally, or whether it was a result of deliberate choice. He explained that this shift occurred deliberately in Matheson. The Digital Services Group was formed in 2019 following an internal consultation process, and Matheson became the first Irish law firm to have initiated in 2022 a graduate programme designed to train a legal technologist.
Another theme which was discussed was the business case for digital transformation and document automation. Alma Campion explained that the latter can reduce costs by up to 80-90% by preparing the initial document. This has now become a client expectation and Shay Lydon gave a practical example of a bespoke solution which was offered by Matheson to a client involving the use of a digital portal and hyperlink.
This discussion dispelled the myth that the deployment of legal technology in law firms displaces lawyers. In fact, this shift has actually reduced the need for lawyers to engage in time-consuming and repetitive tasks, while at the same time opening up new and interesting opportunities across a range of different areas.