Managing the ‘existential concern’ around new tech
As cloud-based technology and large language models continually evolve, this founder has noted “a level of anxiety” in the legal profession – but said that education is key to mitigating it.
Jack Newton is the founder and chief executive of Clio. Speaking on a recent episode of LawTech Talks, produced in partnership with Clio, he outlined the state of affairs in cloud-based technology, how the legal profession is being upended and continually evolving, and what this means for practitioners on the ground.
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First launched in 2008, Clio is a cloud-based practice management and legal CRM that allows lawyers to manage every aspect of running their law practice from the cloud.
“We were really pulled into the Australian market versus pushing into the Australian market in the sense that I think what Australia has is a really innovative base of lawyers that embrace technology, are forward-thinking, have a great mindset about becoming more client-centred in the way they deliver legal services, and they’re looking for companies that are kind of cut from that same cloth,” Mr Newton said.
“And I think that’s exactly why we’ve seen this pull into the Australian market, where, frankly, a lot of lawyers here are tired of or frustrated with the existing solutions they’ve got that are not innovating at their pace or not advancing at their pace, and they see a partner in Clio that can really support their ambitions to become more innovative and to truly embrace the power and leverage the power that technology, including a whole new era of technology in the form of AI, can offer a modern law firm.”
Mr Newton has worked with thousands of lawyers across hundreds of countries – and said that in terms of keeping up with legal tech, Australian lawyers and law firms are “in the top percentile”.
“I really feel like the pervasiveness of adoption of legal technology is so far ahead of the curve here; it’s like travelling five years in the future from most of the other jurisdictions I work with. So, it’s very exciting. The conversation [in Australia] is not about the value of legal practice management or not about the value of using a system to run your law practice,” he added.
“The conversation is really maybe partially about the advantage of the cloud, but it’s already at a great place from a foundational starting point perspective in terms of customers here, already deeply understanding the value of technology and really just thinking about how do I get better? And that’s where the conversation is starting. And I’d absolutely put Australia in the top set of any geographies I’ve worked with in terms of being forward-thinking and ahead of the curve on technology.”
Legal technology in 2023 has revolved around artificial intelligence and large language models and the impact those things are going to have on the profession – and Mr Newton noted “a level of anxiety” around emerging tech.
“One is an existential concern. Is AI going to take my job? Am I going to get displaced by one of these generative AI models that can do much of my job, maybe even better than I can? I think there’s also the risk aversion we see typically with new technologies, and it’s not something that is surprising to see,” he added.
“But [it will] actually create jobs for lawyers, help us expand the reach of legal services, help amplify the impact of lawyers and legal professionals more broadly, and help increase the size of the legal economy and the total addressable market of legal. I think it’ll help improve earning power for lawyers and legal professionals as well. And we’re on the cusp of the most exciting technological revolution since the cloud and since the smartphone. And it’s really not just once in a generation, but probably once in many generations level advance in technology and the impact it will have.”
Moving into next year, lawyers should be educating themselves on the powers and capabilities of these new large language models and experiment with them “in low stakes”, Mr Newton emphasised.
“So, I think really the imperative right now is go and educate yourself on what’s available and start dipping your toe into this and getting comfortable with it. And the earlier you can start adopting these tools, the more you’ll have a competitive advantage over lawyers that are not leveraging these tools. My long-term view is that, again, AI will not replace lawyers full stop, but lawyers leveraging AI will replace lawyers that are not leveraging AI.
“I really think that any lawyer that wants to stay ahead of the curve needs to be educating themselves on this, dipping their toe in it as best they can, understanding the underlying mechanics of how these tools use, and there’s a lot of great educational resources out there that folks can use to get up to speed,” he added.
“And finally, I would say talk to your existing software vendors and ask them what their AI strategy is, and if they stare back at you with a confused look, it’s probably time to start looking at an alternative software vendor because every software company worth its salt today threw out their strategic plan for the next five years around Q1 of this year and said we need to reorient our roadmap around AI and they should be able to articulate what that looks like for you as a customer really clearly.”
NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here: