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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

Information on the project

Legal Tech – algorithmic legal consulting

Thematic area: Information technologies
Analytical approach: TA project
Topic initiative: Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment
Status: ongoing
Current project phase: Conducting literature analysis and expert interviews
Duration: 2017 till 2018

Background and central aspects of the topic

The digitisation of professional consulting and services in the finance and insurance sector is already at an advanced stage and now is also spreading to the legal sector – referred to as Legal or Law Tech.

Legal Tech (short for Legal Technology) generally refers to the use of technologies for legal consulting ranging from simple, platform-based support (tele-lawyer) to partly or fully automated solutions using big data analytics and approaches of machine learning. In the future, the capability to map, analyse and interpret legal data will account for an ever increasing share with regard to the scope of work in law firms.

Currently, high dynamics regarding the development of new business models and the creation of start-up companies focusing on legal consulting and legal services can be observed. Legal Tech start-ups offer smart software solutions or IT-based services such as e. g. »geblitzt.de«, »flightright.de« or »wedonotpay.co.uk« (which is completely based on chatbots), thus entering fields of application in the legal sector. Though, in Germany, the number of Legal Tech companies still is in the two-digit range, there are already several hundreds of Legal Tech start-ups in the USA.

Due to Legal Tech gaining ground, artificial intelligence (AI) penetrates the sensitive field of legal consulting involving potentially far-reaching consequences for the design of legal work processes and the corresponding job specifications. Besides liability aspects, fundamental questions are raised, e. g. with regard to whether a fully automated jurisdiction would be imaginable or in fact desirable.

Objectives and approach

The topic »Legal Tech – algorithmic legal consulting« has been identified in a horizon scanning and drawn up as a brief profile of the topic. Based on a joint estimation of relevance by the Members of the German Bundestag and the TAB, the topic was selected by the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment (ABFTA) in summer 2017 for being dealt with first as a TA preliminary study.

The preliminary study shall provide an overview of Legal Tech services and applications. Moreover, based on expert interviews, it shall be discussed which legal aspects and issues of consumer protection and data privacy are affected by activities of Legal Tech. An international mapping of Legal Tech start-ups shall help to determine which fields of application of Legal Tech are most characterised by market and start-up dynamics and whether national differences can be identified. Taking this as a basis, an international overview with regard to relevant stakeholders and their business areas shall be worked out.

Furthermore, the current debates in (legal) science, advocacy and jurisdiction with regard to Legal Tech shall be analysed in order to assess the potentials, risks and opportunities involved and to further explore potential needs for action from the technological, social, but also political and regulatory point of view. The project shall deal with the following essential questions:

  • Which Legal Tech applications do already exist or are to be expected in the future?
  • Which stakeholders and fields of application characterise the topic?
  • Which current and future impacts do enabling technologies such as AI, blockchain or big data have on the development of Legal Tech?
  • How do the working environment of lawyers and their relationship to clients change?
  • How do Legal Tech influence ethics of the legal profession?
  • Which future trends and potential developments are emerging?

Project progress

The first project phase focuses on reviewing available literature regarding the topic of Legal Tech, the international mapping of Legal Tech start-ups as well as first expert interviews for a more detailed exploration of current developments.