I get this question a lot. (Often in halting fashion and accompanied by a quizzical look–as the inquirer’s brain spins with visions of robots reading Miranda rights.) I’ve developed my own little spiel, which seems to make sense to people, so I thought I’d put it out into the ether for others who might be fielding the same inquiry and find it useful.
For me, “legal tech” means two things: (1) the technology that helps facilitate the practice of law for lawyers and (2) the technology that helps consumers access legal expertise or access justice.
The first category covers everything from the exciting AI-enabled legal research and review tools collecting so much attention in the market today to the more mundane–but utterly essential–tools lawyers use to draft and store their documents, record their time, manage conflicts, etc. It’s not original, but it’s true: the most important “legal tech” for lawyers, therefore, is Microsoft Word and email. But it’s also true that when most of us talk about “legal tech,” we’re thinking about those tools that are distinct to the legal industry and the needs of lawyers.
The second category often garners less attention, but it’s equally–if not more (given that the point of law practice is to serve clients’ interests)–important and covers everything from Joshua Browder’s DoNotPay bot to the LegalZooms and Rocket Lawyers of the world, which also includes the hopefully growing set of technologies aimed at expanding access to justice to underserved and disadvantaged populations who are all-to-often priced out or otherwise excluded from the traditional legal services model.
It’s not a revolutionary definition by any means. But it’s a functional one. And it (or a better one that you can propose in the comments) is one that we should socialize more often and more broadly as we try to carve out and define (alongside of fintech and the like) this interesting, dynamic, and growing little technological sub-vertical. More people should know what we mean when we refer to “legal tech.”