Bloomberg Law
June 4, 2019, 7:57 PM

Lawyers Need to Embrace Legal Tech to Be Competitive

Melissa Heelan Stanzione
Melissa Heelan Stanzione

Lawyers’ lack of fundamental understanding of new legal technologies will soon put them at a disadvantage if they don’t change their ways, according to experts speaking a recent ABA conference.

The group, which spoke on a panel last week at the ABA’s National Conference on Professional Responsibility in Vancouver, Canada, emphasized that legal tech is only becoming more pervasive in the practice of law and lawyers must catch up.

The speakers pointed out that technology has been game changing for lawyers over time.

E-discovery, for instance, has completely transformed work, said Daniel E Pinnington, who is president and CEO at LawPRO in Toronto. Years ago, attorneys were sifting through paper files but now e-discovery tools do the job using artificial intelligence to search texts and find relevant documents, he said.

Newer e-discovery tools are actually learning to refine searches based on human corrections to the initial search results, Pennington said. After a text search, the tools will use these corrections to improve the search function for more accurate results in the future, he explained.

If lawyers can’t accept emerging technologies on their own, outside forces will make them, according to the panelists.

Judges and clients will impose technological requirements on lawyers, Joshua Lenon, lawyer in residence and data protection officer at Clio in Vancouver said. Lenon recalled a recent court opinion about a fee dispute involving a $900 research fee on a bill where the judge said the attorney could have used AI and gotten results much faster, resulting in lower spend.

Another technology increasingly incorporated into the legal profession is blockchain, Lenon said. Blockchain is digital information that can be distributed—but not copied—through cryptography to create permanent records over time.

Blockchain is being used or will soon be used for smart contracts, CLE tracking apps, and law firm trust fund trackers, Lenon said. Lawyers should get acquainted with it because blockchain evidence is admissible in three states, he said.

And the use of legal technology will only escalate, perhaps, Pennington said, to the point where it may someday be hard to tell what’s AI and what is not.

He said singularity—when AI is indistinguishable from human intelligence—will likely hit in 2040.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; Rebekah Mintzer at