Forum Magazine Exclusive: The Emerging New Legal Tech Communities: A Glimpse at the Future of Law?

Topics: Efficiency, Forum Magazine, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Thomson Reuters, United Kingdom

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There are no longer any good excuses. If legal practitioners are looking for greater understanding of what’s going on at the cutting edge of legal technology, or better yet, want to participate by creating or adopting new technologies for the law, there is no shortage of places to go to feed that interest.

The technology-driven changes in the legal industry have spawned a fascinating network of organizations devoted to legal innovation in all its various forms:

Start-up incubators and innovation centers

LegalX in Toronto is part of a larger center for innovation called MaRS; Legal Geek in the UK runs a series of events centered on legal tech entrepreneurship. Evolve Law is a membership-based organization that brings together entrepreneurs and those interested in innovation, with a series of lively, topical events and services such as a legal tech job board.

Academic centers

These cover a wide range of territory. CodeX at Stanford links Stanford’s Law School with its computer science department, and along the way has become a global center for legal innovation and legal tech start-ups. LegalRnD at Michigan State University is a center for cross- disciplinary training that brings design, engineering and other disciplines into legal ed.

Open legal data centers

The Legal Information Institute in the US was one of the first global open data centers, but it has since been joined by institutes around the world, including very active organizations in places like Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. They all have free law databases at their core, but also serve as centers for research and advocacy around open data issues.

Meet-up groups

The various regional Legal Tech Meetup groups and regional chapters of the Legal Hackers groups are one of the more recent and popular manifestations of legal tech communities. These are informal groups that meet with varying frequency around topics of interest. They have bottom-up agendas driven by the interests of members.

Behind each of these communities are dozens of people from different backgrounds: academics, start-up CEOs, researchers, activists, law students, computer scientists, law firm and in-house lawyers, design professionals, and various types of industry advocates and gadflies.

And each of the organizations has its own focus: legal education, open data, artificial intelligence, legal start- ups, access to justice, small law, Big Law. Some want to save the legal industry, some want to blow it up. Some are global in scope, some are fiercely local. It’s all here.

They do different things. They put on big conferences and short hackathons. They publish reports, research and white papers. They train a new generation of tech-savvy lawyers. They build stuff. They tear stuff down. They argue, cajole and convince. And they carry on the dialogue of an industry in transition.

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