The future of legal automation is no code

By Tom Dreyfus|27 August 2020
Tom Dreyfus

Almost every week I see a new conversation debating the ever-so-divisive question: “should lawyers learn to code?”, writes Tom Dreyfus.

Whenever I stumble across another comment thread or tweetstorm, I think to myself: why does this matter? Why is this a thing? Why does the question get legal professionals so riled up? 

It certainly isn’t because clients care. I would struggle to find anyone outside of the legal industry who holds a strong view. 

Reflecting recently on why this debate makes little sense to me, I realised something. It doesn’t matter whether lawyers can code or not! What matters is whether legal professionals have the tools they need to deliver the best possible legal service to their clients. And those are exactly the tools that no-code legal automation aims to provide.

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Josef’s own history is illuminating here. Back in 2017, a national working group of community legal centres was formed to identify scalable and cost-effective technology solutions to meet increasing demand. When none was found, my co-founders and I naively concluded that we could solve the problem ourselves by building bots to solve common legal problems. 

What we quickly realised was that the technology wasn’t going to hold us back, but our limited legal knowledge certainly was! Creating a legal bot requires a deep understanding of both the law and the clients’ needs. We needed to rethink our approach. 

This was the lightbulb moment. The moment when we realised that the future of legal automation wasn’t just about building bots, but instead empowering legal subject matter experts with a platform on which to create their own.

Since the pandemic struck, the ability – even the imperative – to create these tools has become more important than ever. 

Three trends have emerged in my conversations with law firm partners, general counsel and the heads of community legal centres as they lead their organisations through this uncertainty.

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The first is that they are desperate for ways to keep their teams happy and engaged. The more time we spend working where we live and living where we work, the harder it becomes to maintain that creative spark; to find the fire in the belly that drives us to do our best work.

The second is that legal professionals are being asked to do more with less. In-house teams have seen their headcounts frozen, while expectations about their output continue to rise. In law firms, the pressure on non-fee earners to reduce costs is immense.

The third is that self-sufficiency has become key to many legal professionals. When you build something yourself, you can maintain, update and control it yourself. This makes your product more adaptable, more efficient, and more cost-effective.

No-code automation responds directly to these trends. Because the barriers to entry are so low, any legal professional with an idea can start prototyping immediately. This is a creative process in which legal professionals can collaborate and celebrate each other’s success. And it leads to that moment of pride (and personal joy) when something you’ve built just works.

With no code, legal professionals can do more with less, both for and by themselves! And this matters immensely when IT resources are strained and not always available to help. 

Strip away the hype, and ultimately this is why no-code platforms are the future of legal automation. Because no matter who the legal professional is, or what their level of technical expertise might be, no-code legal automation empowers all of us to do more for our clients, to work better and smarter, and to make legal services more available and accessible to those who need them. Whether we can code or not.

Tom Dreyfus is the CEO of Josef. 

The future of legal automation is no code
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