In ‘Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes’ schrijft de Franse filosoof Jean-Jacques Rousseau: ‘En zo waren zij arm geworden zonder iets te verliezen, maar simpelweg doordat alles rondom hen veranderd was en zijzelf niet’.
Dit citaat dat dateert uit 1755 heeft een bijzonder moderne insteek in de discussie over de toekomst van de legale beroepen. Advocaten ervaren een steeds grotere druk, aangezien de markt evolueert in de richting van meer transparantie, meer voorspelbaarheid en meer klantgerichtheid. Bovendien staan advocaten tegenover een existentiële uitdaging: ze moeten trachten relevant te blijven in het digitale tijdperk.
Naar mijn mening zullen advocaten kunnen gedijen in deze numerieke eeuw als ze leren te coderen (of minstens leren hoe programmeren in zijn werk gaat). Advocaten kunnen zich niet meer verstoppen achter legaal jargon of verwachten dat hun klanten betalen voor academische legale oplossingen, die niet stroken met de technische realiteit. Ze zijn verplicht de handen vuil te maken om relevant te blijven in de wereld van morgen. En daar zijn drie redenen voor.
Lees de rest van dit artikel, geschreven door advocaat Adrien van den Branden, hieronder in het Engels:
1. Software Is Eating the World
In 2011, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously stated that “software is eating the world“.
A few years later, it is fair to stay the statement was no exaggeration. Internet giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are arguably the most powerful companies on earth, claiming 4 spots out of the 6 most valued firms in the world in 2017. As software is becoming an ever-increasing part of mergers and acquisitions, lawyers must understand the fundamentals of the transferred technology. Is the target developing SaaS, hosted or on-premise applications? Are the service levels proposed by the seller compatible with the buyer’s needs (in terms of availability, back-up, time-to-restore, etc.)?
Following the M&A trend, software contracting is also expanding, as more and more industries digitize their services, requiring them to hire tech contractors and integrate into third party IT platforms. Cyber security threats are also increasing, requiring data protection specialists to have more than a high-level understanding of the underlying IT systems. More than ever, lawyers are faced with a blend of legal and technical challenges, requiring them to understand both the law and the technology.
2. The Lurking Legal Tech
When innovation happens inside a law firm, it is often by accident and rarely by design. Law firms are structured around partnerships of talented lawyers, who lock in their own money into the firm, with no external funds being made available (often, the law forbids external influence in a law firm). Firms follow a lockstep model where the more senior the partner is, the more clout is has over the strategy of the firm. Hence, investments are usually geared towards short-term objectives, not in the long run.
From this innovation vacuum, Legal Tech companies (i.e. companies leveraging technology to provide legal services) have emerged as serious challengers to small and medium law firms, especially those whose bread and butter depend on highly automatisable repetitive tasks.
Lawyers may shrug off the whole “Legal Tech will bring us down” doom scenario. Rightly so for the ones delivering bespoke work (less so for the others). However, a large chunk of Legal Tech does not want to precipitate lawyers. Instead, they want to integrate their technology into their practices and allow lawyers to license their technology back to their clients. Lawyers must understand how such integrations could work to harness their full potential.
Law firms will not only integrate LegalTech into their practices. They will also directly hire tech people, as many top-tier law firms currently do. In 2016, The Boston Consultancy Group and Bucerius Law School published a report predicting the gradual transformation of the structure of the law firm, from the centuries-old pyramidal structure to the imminent rocket-shaped structure, with less lawyers and more techies. In that context, lawyers must be able to communicate with their tech counterparts.
3. Smart Contracts
Smart Contracts are probably the elephants in many of the law firms’ rooms. Smart Contracts are contracts designed to execute themselves without the intervention of a third party. With potential applications to insurance and finance, Smart Contracts are set to become more and more prevalent in the mainstream business environment. Lawyers need to understand the building blocks of the blockchain technology as a prerequisite to serve their clients in that field.
At a minimum, clients will expect their lawyers to understand blockchain. More importantly, lawyers will acquire a decisive edge if they are able to code a Smart Contract themselves. Clients will likely not accept the bulky value chain where they first pay lawyers to draft full text contracts and then pay engineers to translate the lawyerish jargon into a Smart Contract. If law firms are clever enough, they will invest into their own people to provide the full service to their clients. After all, legal reasoning is very much akin to algorithmic reasoning (if… that… statements crawling all over the place). Law is code. In essence.
Law Is Code
This is why we launched Law Is Code, a series of workshops where we teach lawyers how to:
- Craft their first Legal Tech app; and
- Sign their first Smart Contract on the blockchain.
The objective of the workshops is to provide lawyers with interactive yet approachable coding exercises, adapted to their day-to-day constraints yet fun to tackle.
If you want to become tomorrow’s lawyer, please register to the workshops of your choice at www.lawiscode.be or contact the author of this article.
Original article on LinkedIn
Geschreven door Adrien van den Branden