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The future of law – Can the human touch retain parity with technological innovation?

February 2020

For many, March is simply the start of spring but for those connected to the real estate sector it means much more than that. Each March, the biggest names in property flock to Cannes for MIPIM, the world’s largest real estate conference which attracts upwards of 25,000 delegates annually. It’s a chance for global players to collectively discuss and shape the future of the industry, with talks focusing on various themes. This March, Lawrence Stephens are delighted to be attending MIPIM once again and bringing our insight to this year’s theme: ‘The Future is Human’.

In the legal profession, we’re always thinking about the future. Our work revolves around preparing clients for what’s to come, whether that’s through succession planningsecured lending or business restructuring. Observing the latest trends and considering their implications is second nature so we can best serve our clients. We’re constantly imagining what the future looks like and aspiring to redesign the future of law.

One of the biggest forces shaping the approaching age of every sector is the boom in technological innovation. As AI, machine learning and other technology rapidly develops, every industry must learn to use new tools. The legal and property sectors are no different – the ‘PropTech’ industry is estimated to be worth £6 billion in the UK alone and investment in UK legal technology more than doubled between 2018 and 2019. Technology in the legal sector is now being used to conduct legal research and due diligence, log billed hours, automate document completion and even predict litigation outcome. With technology’s legal applications exponentially expanding it’s all too easy to envisage a future where cases are closed by computers and robot lawyers leave human ones behind.

Although it’s true that technology is radically transforming our world, such thinking is at best unproductive, at worst, self-sabotage. Law is fundamentally about structuring human relationships and so the human touch can never be written out of existence, no matter how clever the code or the blockchain. The controversy over police use of facial recognition software also highlights the ethical problems with blanket acceptance of assistive technology. Computers can be as biased as the humans who programme them but that’s something we dangerously forget. Human discernment and cross-examination will continuously be needed to assess the impact of innovation and ensure it’s helping, not hurting.

Technological innovation makes our work more efficient and effective, but the human touch will always outweigh an artificial one. It’s true in law and it’s true in property – which is why MIPIM 2020 will focus on how we relate to each other and serve our evolving needs in this market. As the world faces unprecedented global challenges, this human connection is more important than ever and collective thinking is crucial. This year’s MIPIM is set to be an illuminating and thought-provoking few days and we can’t wait for March.

Steven BernsteinGregory Palos and David Freedman will represent Lawrence Stephens at MIPIM from Tuesday 10th March to Thursday 12th March. Want to connect with us in Cannes? Please get in touch with the team, we would be delighted to see you!