Pursuing a career in legal tech
‘Legaltech’ is a term used to encompass a variety of emerging technologies and software that focus on improving legal services and workflow processes, such as algorithmic document review and document automation. In 2019, the sector was estimated to have generated USD$17 billion of revenue worldwide, and is set to continue to rapidly develop in coming years due to strong market demand. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic context highlighted the need for law firms to be adaptable and innovative in utilising technologies that facilitate more efficient remote work. As the market grows, so too does the opportunity for law students and graduates to pursue a career in the many legal tech start-ups currently popping up in the market.
The Law Society Journal published an article in early 2021 identifying several up-and-coming Australian legal tech startups such as SettlePro, a financial dispute resolution platform targeted for family law disputes, Smarter Drafter, a legal tech company that automates the drafting of 96 different types of documents, and CheckBox, which offers a user-friendly platform where firms can design their own workflows and documents for automation.
Although legal tech startups and teams are booming, Lawyers Weekly published an article in March 2021, titled ‘Legal tech is booming, but where are the grads?’ highlighting the lack of clear career pathways for law students to follow for a career in legal technology. Whilst clerkships and grad programs have been perfected and streamlined by firms across the country for years, legal tech companies are not currently investing the same efforts into educating the future workforce. Sam Flynn, co-founder of Josef, a Melbourne-based legal tech company that offers automation services for legal services and documents, writes that students ‘being deprived of choice and a valuable career pathway…means poorer long-term outcomes for both the legal and legal tech industry.’
Another recruitment factor to consider in the current state of the legal tech industry is that tech generally is still an overwhelmingly male-dominated sector, with Google’s 2020 diversity report recording that almost 70% of their employees were men, and 50% of all employees were white in their U.S. positions. Professionals Australia published a report ‘Tech’s Woman Problem’ in 2019, discussing key issues for women in the tech industry, including lack of clarity around, and support for, career progression opportunities. While tech may still be facing significant issues with gender diversity, the Law Society of NSW publicly announced in July 2021 that for the first time ever, there were more female solicitors than male solicitors in every state and territory in Australia. As the legal tech market continues to develop, hopefully their diversity initiatives and career pathways do too.
To hear from an industry expert about their own experience pursuing a career in legal tech, listen to Episode 22 of Hearsay, ‘An Unplanned Career in Legal Tech’ with Wenee Yap, founder of Survive Law, Bottled Law, and Chief Marketing Officer at ExpertsDirect.