The History of Legal Sector Modernisation

Legal tech is on the verge of changing the way lawyers and in-house counsels work to a great extent. The term refers to the use of artificial intelligence for the increasing automation of legal services. Nowadays, there are already programmes that are capable, for example, of answering simple legal questions. It is also possible to formulate entire contracts. For the legal sector, the development is perhaps the biggest step in its history so far. To understand it, it is useful to take a look at the multifaceted history of the legal system.

 

The beginnings of the legal system in the ancient world

Even in ancient times, various advanced civilisations had complex legal systems. Ancient Rome is particularly significant. Around 450 BC, the so-called Twelve Tables Law first appeared. The writing down of laws was a great advance, as previously only noble patricians or priests had access to the law. They often interpreted the laws that were only known to them in their own favour. Civil law and private criminal law gradually followed. Many principles of Roman law are still part of our legal system today. Whether debtor and creditor, loan contract or mortgage – Roman legislation already knew many legal institutions. This also included the distinction between the acquisition of property by the entitled or non-entitled party. Lawyers were also necessary due to the complex legal system that was now in place.

 

First modernisations in the Middle Ages

In the course of the migration of peoples, Roman law was initially largely lost. Gradually, however, the old writings re-emerged. In the process, Roman law soon supplanted customary law throughout continental Europe. The nations of Europe adopted Roman law on a grand scale. The universities taught it together with the new canon law of the Catholic Church. This also included the first innovations. For example, the profession of counsel emerged. This was a lawyer who did not work as a lawyer, but advised cities or local authorities. For example, he wrote legal opinions on behalf of the council or the mayor.

 

The use of libraries as repositories of knowledge

In the course of time, more and more laws and legal texts were added. While the Twelve Tables Law was still accessible to everyone on the Roman Forum, it became increasingly difficult to keep track of them. With the spread of libraries, it became possible to bring together various texts and laws in one central place. This was another breakthrough. Researching a legal issue now became much easier. Judgements, commentaries and reference books opened up new possibilities for lawyers and syndicates to advise their clients in the best possible way.

 

Many changes in the modern era

The greatest changes in the legal profession to the present day have taken place in the last few decades. Increasing technical progress made everyday life easier for lawyers and other legal professionals.

 

Introduction of the fax machine

One of these milestones was the introduction of the fax machine. What is special about this is that the form of transmission conforms to the written form requirement. Previously, important documents were sent exclusively by post, which caused a great deal of delay. The fax machine made it possible to send letters to courts and other bodies in a fraction of a second. As a result, lawyers and counsels suddenly had much more time to prepare statements of claim and other correspondence. The three days required for the postal service were eliminated. Amendments and additions to pleadings were also much easier to make this way.

 

Introduction of the computer into law firms

The triumph of computers also brought numerous advantages to law firms and facilitated the workflow. This resulted in a wide range of applications. They began with the general advantages of word processing and ended with complete client databases. For example, it was no longer necessary to write every letter from scratch. Today, templates are commonplace in many areas. In simple cases, it is sufficient to enter the personal data of the clients. Bookkeeping and accounting can also be done much faster and more efficiently with a computer than by hand. Comprehensive special programmes made possible to classify clients, meet deadlines or manage resubmissions.

 

Digitisation of knowledge on the internet

The next step in the development of the legal sector was the internet. Extremely comprehensive legal databases such as beck-online put any library in the shade. They deliver all legal knowledge directly to lawyers’ offices, saving time and effort. In addition, modern search algorithms facilitated research. They made it possible to browse the databases in an extremely short time and find exactly the right information. In this way, a much more substantiated and purposeful argumentation in pleadings was possible within certain deadlines.

 

Pause in modernisation since the 90s

After these far-reaching changes, there was initially a pause lasting many years. Since the 1990s, there have been no fundamental innovations that revolutionised the legal profession, apart from regular changes in the law. While digitalisation, for example, changed the industry more and more, the everyday life of lawyers was always the same for a long time. At most, there were only subtle innovations such as the use of audio and video conferencing to communicate with clients and colleagues.

 

Modernisation boom through legal tech and artificial intelligence

Only in recent years has a significant revolution become apparent. Legal tech is enabling a completely new form of legal advice. The basis for this is new technologies and increasing computing power. In addition, the growing proportion of so-called Digital Natives among lawyers is making itself known. They have a technological mindset and approach familiar problems in a completely different way.

The result is a real boom in legal tech companies, which is constantly producing more innovations. Current areas of application include, for example, programs that produce legal documents completely by themselves. In particular, the automatic creation of all kinds of contracts with the help of an online application makes everyday life much easier for lawyers and companies.

With the help of so-called chat bots, legal questions can even be answered automatically. Those seeking legal advice are thus able to receive an immediate answer to their question virtually around the clock. Law firms with the appropriate software therefore have a real competitive advantage.

 

The future holds the prospect of even more extensive changes. For example, human control of automatically created documents by artificial intelligence will increasingly become obsolete. Even in that case, however, lawyers will not be out of a job, as a machine is only partially suitable for representing and advising clients.

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