Legal Technology – Preconditions, Opportunities, and Risks

An article by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem, Affiliate Professor of Innovation and Law at Bucerius Law School, in the Bucerius Law Journal.

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A. Digitalisation as a disruptive innovation


In the previous millennium, there were two great disruptive technological innovations, which led to profound upheavals in society. One was the invention of the printing press; the other, industrialisation. Since the start of this millennium, we have been going through another period of technological upheaval, which many scholars – myself included – believe will cause social change of a magnitude similar to that brought about by the aforementioned innovations. I am referring to digitalisation and the associated digital transformation of the economy, culture, politics, and public and private communication – indeed, probably of virtually every area of life. It is essential to prepare for the fact that digitalisation will have a significant and growing impact on society.

Computers and digital technologies have of course existed for many decades. Today, however, their capabilities have changed dramatically. The rate of innovation has accelerated. The creation of global infrastructures has led to worldwide networks, and the mobility of communication – symbolised for example by the smartphone or the use of clouds – creates further space for new developments and changes to individual and social life. Current buzzwords like Big Data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain are shorthand for further leaps in development.

B. Opportunities and risks associated with the development of legal technology


One of the new buzzwords is legal technology (“Legal Tech”). The term describes the use of digital technologies to assist in identifying, interpreting, and applying the law and, in some instances, also in creating it. As a result, traditional law is being practiced in new ways and it is even being replaced in some areas. The role of lawyers is changing. 

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Read complete article in the Bucerius Law Journal (free)

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