Legal tech is essential for the future lawyer: “Students are currently fiddling with paper lawbooks”

Evert Stamhuis

In all industries, innovation and technological developments are becoming more and more used, especially in legal practice. New techniques offer opportunities and make time-consuming paperwork redundant. Evert Stamhuis, Professor of Law and Innovation at Erasmus School of Law, explains the influence of technological development in law to Advocatie and pleads for properly teaching legal tech to students.

Techniques like text recognition and intelligent search engines make the life of the contemporary legal expert much easier. Legal tech increasingly replaces boring and routine work and will play an increasing part in legal practice. Stamhuis emphasises that legal professionals should not fear being replaced by a machine: “there are lots of components to the legal work that technology can not do better than humans in the next fifty years; using machines would result in deterioration.”

“[legal tech] makes some aspects of the work a lot easier, but it could also create more time for certain things where a legal professional currently has little time for”, continues Stamhuis. “Properly listening to the client, having more time for a negotiation with the opposing party. Taking away the time pressure would not mean the legal professional would be out of a job, but it would just mean focusing on other things.”

Fiddling around with a lawbook

Significantly because legal tech changes the role of the legal professional and because it has an increasing influence on the law, law students must get extensively acquainted with the technology, according to Stamhuis: “having the right information is much easier using the cloud. However, the nineteenth-century image of the lawyer as the source of knowledge is still reflected in legal education, for example, when students are fiddling around with lawbooks. Of course, there are solid arguments in favour of this, but at the same time, it is outdated.”

During education, there should be enough focus on the use of tech, emphasises Stamhuis: “it is important that students understand the opportunities and developments of tech. (…) We teach our students to work with different platforms and how they can judge these platforms. For example, the choice for a platform can influence the (whether or not objective) outcome of the search.”

Today’s law students are the law writers of the future. Therefore basic knowledge of technological innovation is vital, concludes the Professor of Law and Innovation: “it is important to me that students remotely understand what happens in the backend of the systems. Currently, in the sections of departments where automated execution practice has a big role, the writing of legal code is completely adapted to the systems. The legal professionals are asked to make a legal source ready for automatization. That is only possible if those professionals understand the basics of the automatised practise.”

Evert Stamhuis, Professor of Law and Innovation
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Click here for the entire article of Advocatie (in Dutch).

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