Law students are often told that a law degree holds significant value outside of coveted law graduate positions. We’re told that the analytical skills and attention to detail we picked up in our evidence and admin lectures will help us to forge a path outside of commercial practice. Over the past year, I’ve found this to be true. In fact, taking the path less travelled may actually be more exciting and fulfilling than anything a top-tier grad position can offer. Earlier this year I embarked on a journey chosen by many in our generation; I started a legal tech startup.
One of my key motivations for embarking on the journey was the realisation that technological know-how was one of the few areas where law graduates can add significant value to our legal system. As ‘digital natives’, we’ve grown up in a world of smartphones and social networks and naturally seek to find technology-based solutions to make legal practice efficient, fairer and more profitable. Technology based change in the legal system is unlikely to come from the top because traditional practices at too entrenched by that stage in a lawyer’s career and new technology is not accessible. Right now there is a significant opportunity for young law graduates to change the way our legal system operates through creating innovative solutions to traditional legal problems.
We’re seeing the potential for this both abroad and at home. In the United States, companies like Ravel Law have been started by law students looking at legal citations and deciding there has to be a better way. In Australia, my own company, Jurimetrics, is building analytical tools and information systems for our legal and regulatory system. Our team recognised that the tools serving the legal profession lag well behind the tools available to our friends in finance. In finance, algorithms, 24-hour news networks and billion dollar information systems are available to assist brokers and bankers in providing substantial value for their clients. In law, however, we have online library using Soviet-era technology and cave-man era innovations.
It’s not just in analysis where the law is changing, opportunities for legal services to move online are springing up everywhere, and law firms are taking notice. The recent investment by Gilbert + Tobin into NewLaw startup LegalVision demonstrates that traditional legal firms are taking legal innovations seriously. The traditional hierarchical structures of the legal world are flattening, for the first time graduates have an avenue to add value to the system beyond long hours of due diligence. While senior leaders of the professional will always have a more nuanced understanding of the legal system, it is a passionate team of 20-somethings who are going to find ways to distribute this knowledge and increase its reach and impact.
So how do you get started? There are lots of opportunities at the moment to play a part in Australia’s growing legal tech scene while still at university. Bloom, a start-up community Western Australia is a hive of activity supporting young people to develop entrepreneurial solutions to problems such as these. If you’re in Sydney, UNSW runs legal hackathon Hack Justice every year, where students have the opportunity to team up with friends and developers and solve some serious legal problems over a weekend. The Legal Forecast, an innovation focused law society is currently expanding from Queensland to New South Wales and the ACT.
What the legal practice will look like in 20 years is uncertain, but with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit and armed with a law degree, you can build it.
This guest post was written by Conrad Karageorge. Conrad is Managing Director of legal data analytics company Jurimetrics. He has degrees in law and commerce from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in commercial law firms and economic think tanks. If you wish to write a blog post for Beyond Law, get in touch.