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Legal Research: Let's automate that!

Written by Peter Flynn
on June 28, 2017

A really interesting study emerged a few months back and I've been itching to write something about it. The study, the Mattern & Associates LLC’s 2016 Cost Recovery Survey, found that nearly three quarters of law firms stated that their clients refuse to pay for legal research. The survey is conducted bi-annually and examines where firms attempt to and succeed in recovering costs, where clients refuse to pay, and how firms deal with the unpaid costs.

What Clients refuse to pay for- Legal research

Whilst these findings are not going to shape the legal industy of the future it does shed some light into where the law firm of the future is probably heading.

As we've said before, the problem is not that law is complicated, it is actually quite clear and concise if you can find the relevant provisions. The problem is that it is generally terribly organised and sometimes simple obligations can be hidden in reams upon reams of obscure text.

To date, the problem, of sifting through reams and reams of text, has been solved by legal research performed by lawyers and legal librarians at great expense in time and money. Now, as illustrated by the survey results, clients do not want to pay for this legal research (it should just be 'included'). What should or could law firms do?

We have spoken before on the rise of legaltech and how technology is impacting the legal arena. Law can be seen as data, and data can be automated. Interpretation of that law, is for the humans...the lawyers. The solution is one of organising law and legal obligations in a better way, so that legal research and the expensive time of lawyers is not needed. Legaltech can do this.

So, a new approach and mind-shift towards legal research is required. Law firms should:

  • Automate what can and should be automated (through legaltech)
  • Charge what represents value to the customer

The problem of poor organisation of law is not for lawyers to solve, it is for legaltech to solve. Soon, clients will not have to refuse to pay for legal research because legal research costs will become negligible.


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