How legal tech is shaking up Colorado’s legal industry
Clearly, legal tech is a trend that is here to stay
We’re all aware of the impact of technology on our daily lives. From smartphones to smart televisions, mobile banking to robot-assisted surgery, technology has infiltrated almost every industry—and the legal field is no exception.
But to a certain extent, the legal industry has been left behind. Long held in the tradition of lengthy briefs, libraries full of volumes of case law, and boxes upon boxes of discovery documents, the legal industry has been one of the last holdouts to embracing technology. Over the past decade and a half, technology has sought to bring efficiency to an often archaic legal process and provide transparency to an increasingly savvy customer base.
Most technology companies in the field have focused less on the consumer, and more on making the job of an attorney a lot more efficient. While it’s nice to see some lawyers emerge from the “dark ages,” the work that most of these startups have done to modernize law has generally not made a huge impact on society. Until now.
More and more companies are focusing on “direct to consumer” legal options that drastically reduce fees and speed up resolution of legal issues. Many of these companies are founded in Colorado. These innovative businesses are disrupting the legal industry, making law more affordable, transparent, efficient and accessible.
Current Use of Legal Tech
Covid-19 and Legal Technology
In February, 2020 I earned the American Bar Association’s, James I Keane award for excellence in e-lawyering. Just one month before Coronavirus took hold of our economy, online lawyering was seen as innovative. Less than one year later, virtually the entire profession has embraced cloud computing. For the first time ever, Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer have actual competition — as society has fully embraced online legal options as a viable solution to solving complex issues.
With the introduction and development of software for legal research, case management and document production, one would be hard pressed to find a law firm that hasn’t adopted some form of technology for their day-to-day case operations. Software and websites, such as Fastcase or LexisNexis, allow attorneys to search case law and statutes in less than half the time of research in hardbound books – even across jurisdictions.
During the time of COVID-19, even the antiquated courts are embracing technology at a rate they never have before. In Colorado, most courts have transitioned to remote hearings during the pandemic (with the exception of jury trials). This has helped, in the most part, to prevent a backlog of cases. Further, the introduction of e-filing to Colorado courts has reduced the time it takes to file pleadings and documents.
COVID-19 has also created opportunities for legal tech companies to emerge front and center — with their out-of-the-box solutions to the unique issues caused or enhanced by the pandemic. Most argue these solutions are here to stay. “With people living more of their lives online due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Joseph Schieffer of the Denver legal tech company, A2J Tech, “consumers will come to expect legal services to be delivered like everything else in their lives, in a convenient and technology-enabled way.”
Huge Saving for Consumers On Legal Fees
The benefits of legal tech are not limited to those who work in the legal profession. Divorce is one of the most complex and costly legal processes a person can tackle. According to USA Today, the average cost of a divorce with children in Colorado is $21,700 per person. Platforms such as Hello Divorce and SplitSmart provide Coloradans with even more savings by providing legal services at a fraction of the cost of traditional attorneys.
As the founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, we are disrupting the 50 billion dollar a year industry by leveraging technology to cut costs and streamline the overly complicated and inefficient divorce process. By offering do-it-yourself (and do-it-with-you) services, we are empowering consumers to take the reins on their legal matters. With smart tech, consumers no longer need lawyers to be the center of their case. Instead, they now have tools to empower themselves to move through the legal process on their own — paying only for additional help from lawyers or mediators when and if they need it.
“Most people are concerned about money, and are sensitive to the expense and emotional turmoil of going through a divorce,” seconds Carl Roberts, founder of Colorado based SplitSmart. “Legal tech helps take out the biggest chunk of the expense by giving consumers tools to get through the divorce process on their own.” And if consumers find they have an issue that requires legal advice? Platforms like Hello Divorce allow you to purchase legal coaching sessions and get legal advice at a fraction of the cost of the retainer you’d pay to a traditional lawyer.
Additionally, in more traditional law firms, legal tech allows attorneys to spend less time on research, document review and drafting – generally some of the most time consuming legal tasks. The automation of these tasks results in less billable hours, which translates to even more consumer savings.
The legal industry is without a doubt moving towards inclusivity and automation, which will only serve to benefit the consumer wallet. Says Schieffer of the legal tech trend, “Hello Divorce is a shining example of the good news that legal services will become more affordable.”
Fundamental Changes, Beginning at Law School
Legal tech is even making waves in legal education. Law schools, traditionally steeped in history, have started to embrace technology as part of their curriculum. Cornell Law School, for instance, has developed a Masters of Law program in Law Technology and Entrepreneurship. The program focuses on preparing attorneys to navigate the unique legal challenges that affect a complex digital world.
Chicago-Kent Law School has a similar program, J.D. Certificate Program in Legal Technology + Innovation, which aims to help J.D. candidates prepare for the changing legal industry and future trend of increased technology in the legal market. These, and other similar programs at law schools across the country, make clear that legal technology is a growing trend that will continue to shape the future of the legal industry and the professionals who work in it.
Future of Legal Tech
“In five to ten years I expect a new normal to emerge in which the primary means that consumers look to handle their legal disputes is through an online tool, such as Hello Divorce. If they can’t find a solution, then they’ll go the old-fashioned route and look for an attorney,” says Schieffer.
For now, though, the legal industry continues to straddle the fence of tradition and innovation, but that soon may change. A new generation is entering the workforce who have been versed in technology since childhood. These professionals demand convenience and automation, and it’s up to the legal industry – and legal professionals – to develop technology that will keep pace.
Roberts concurs. “Legal tech is a trend attorneys and mediators need to embrace – or be left behind.” Denver based Lawgical is further proof that law is moving in the right direction. Founded in 2004, they have always put technology first. As of 2020, they now have more than 15 brands — each innovative by tackling a specific need within the industry – proving that the demand for technology from legal professionals and consumers alike continues to grow.
Clearly, legal tech is a trend that is here to stay.
Erin Levine is the CEO and Founder of Hello Divorce, an award winning online platform that offers Coloradans an easier, cheaper and less stressful divorce option. Her mission is to change the conversation around divorce — making the process transparent and the experience empowering, so you are set up for a positive co-parenting relationship and a happier, healthier, next chapter.