Is tech really driving disruption in law?

It’s hard to escape the impact of technology on our lives, especially when it’s not merely changing the world as we know it, but revolutionizing it.

Travel was one of the first to feel its impact. Remember when Orbitz put the business of shopping for the best travel deals in the consumer’s hands? Higher education has been made more accessible with technology’s enabling of distance learning. And telemedicine is upending the healthcare industry as it opens up new pathways for service delivery.

We all know that the law business has been slow to embrace technology. Lawyers themselves are the first to bemoan the law field’s conservatism and the reactionary nature of the business itself, which can’t possibly keep up with the pace of change.

In fact, technology is slowly reshaping the law field – tech solutions are reinventing everything from document storage to case management to the discovery process. Can actual disruption be far behind? Wired magazine, for one, says there are too many disincentives that are institutional.

But attorney Monica Zent, writing in Huffington Post, has a different perspective. Disruption is right around the corner, she believes. One of the forces behind it is the tech-enabled gig economy. It’s not just creating a virtual and decentralized practice that’s a good backdrop for tech investment, but serving the interests of a new generation of lawyers who demand technological efficiencies so they can live a balanced life. Just as important: Clients are pushing hard for legal tech innovation and expect tech efficiencies to lead to cost efficiencies.

These are trends, interestingly enough, that Esquify has jumped on with our solution for managing document reviews. We tap into the gig economy by creating a virtual community of highly qualified reviewers. Our platform provides a window to manage and monitor their performance, capturing data about it across the board and offering up analytics to understand the efficiencies being achieved.

The upshot is considerable savings: Reviews are completed with 25 percent or more better efficiency and up to 30 percent in savings over market fees and rates. And that leads to a key point of the Wired article: that lawyers resist tech innovation because it cuts into billable hours.

Zent says, however, that clients will be the forcing function – and anyway, the environment may just lead to the billable hours concept going away. We’re not so sure about that, but we do know that talk of cost savings and greater transparency over the review process plays like music to clients’ ears. And, in fact, that’s where we’re getting a lot of traction – from general counsels demanding that their law firms use our platform for the document review function to better control litigation costs.

Disruption may be too strong a word for what is underway in the legal business due to technological advances, but change is certainly underway. Perhaps it all would be less threatening to the legal establishment if legal techies and pundits stay away from the D word altogether. We think of our platform, for example, as an assisting solution that is more about advancing functions, not changing behaviors.

Because we’re really not looking to disrupt things. We’re simply trying to streamline an area of e-discovery that’s inconsistent, frustrating and ripe for improvement. 

By: Drew Stern & Scott Stuart, Esquify Co-CEOs