The Digitalization of the Legal Field (Alexandra Sabalier)

It is no secret that the law and the legal field tend to stick to a traditional base, and has countless procedures before it changes or develops. Many times this results in society changing at a much faster rate than the law is able to. This is not necessarily a negative or positive outcome, it is simply a balanced manner to maintain a sense of uniformity in the way issues and disputes in society are to be evaluated and resolved.The legal system is the backbone of all of our behaviors as part of society, it can not have the same flexibility and informality as other more innovative sectors because it would not be able to conform in a rational manner to ensure justice and practicability to all.Imagine if the laws would change as rapidly as we do. We would have new laws everyday that would most likely contradict one another, and the legal system would lose its entire purpose of maintaining an order and a societal structure in place.But although it would be impractical to recklessly change the laws to accommodate with our every day activities and to society’s constant shifts, the field and practice of law has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to digitalization and virtualization.Globally, the legal services market is one of the largest in the world at close to $1T. Everything that companies and industries do, such as selling, purchasing, creating partnerships, mergers, reorganizations, etc. is done via legally enforceable contracts. In a major way, the stability of society and our economy depends on the functionality of the legal system.It is for this reason that it is imperative for the legal system to innovate, and for the practice of law to transform into a sector that is virtual, technological, and digital in nature. Surprisingly, the process of digitization of the legal system is much more approachable than many may suspect. This is mainly because of the fact that the law operates in a practically identical principle as machine learning.Machine learning works by repetition, and identification of similar examples to infer information and apply it to new situations. In more than one way, this system is strikingly similar to how laws are construed and applied in society. The legislation of laws is made based on studies of precedents and applying the facts of the precedents to new cases which, although similar in nature to their precedents, may need new solutions because they present new issues. The legal system is then left with the duty of applying the precedents’ facts to the new set of circumstances presented, and reaching a logical conclusion that provides a just solution. This logic-oriented process is exactly the type of methodology to which machine intelligence can successfully be applied.It is for these similarities that the legal field will most likely gain advantage from the digitalization of its operation. Especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, and after having experienced for the first time an almost entirely dependency on virtual programs in order to keep our economy and society going, it is crucial for the legal system to innovate and make itself more accessible and digitized.Artificial intelligence and machine learning will most likely be able to provide the tools for successfully managing the more mechanical aspects of the law. With a deep sense of understanding of these systems, legal professionals as well as the legal system in general will greatly benefit. Whether we recognize it yet or not, the direction society is going is towards a digitalized and virtual world, and the legal field has the opportunity now, more than ever, to become part of what many call the digital revolution.

Alexandra Sabalier