In March 1989 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee first wrote a paper proposing an “information management” system that would become known as the World Wide Web, none of us could have envisaged the impact it would have on the way we live, work and communicate. Thirty years on, the way we use technology in every aspect of our lives has changed beyond recognition, more than 50 per cent of the world’s population is online. More than two billion websites exist.
In marking the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web this week, Berners-Lee emphasised that what was important to him in 2019, in the context of ‘fake news’ and political disruption, was that the web “serves humanity well”. Serving humanity well has and always will be the very foundation of the work that we, as members of the legal profession, carry out daily.
However, the way solicitors practice law is changing at a pace never experienced and in unforeseen ways. Globally, the legal profession is seeing a convergence of so many powerful new legal technology innovations, each creating opportunities and challenges for how solicitors can serve their clients and how members of the community can access justice. The pace of that change is increasing exponentially.
As the use of legal technology accelerates, it is important that solicitors understand and anticipate how technology affects the way they practice law. Digital innovation can offer huge potential for solicitors to support their clients, reach more people and deliver enhanced, cost-efficient legal services.
To be truly innovative, solicitors will need to focus on collaboration, communication, speed of service, and greater choice and better outcomes for clients. One need only to look at how changes in areas such as document drafting and review, e-conveyancing, legal research, e-discovery and billing, analytics and prediction are affecting solicitors' work. In the legal assistance sector too, technology has the potential to reduce costs and reduce delays, thus increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community.
In NSW, the legal profession is hungry for information about innovation and technology, and as the professional body for the state’s 35,000 solicitors, the Law Society will do all it can to help solicitors to stay ahead of the pack in understanding how technology affects the way they practice today, and into the future, for the benefit of the communities they seek to serve.