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8 Laws 1 (2019)

handle is hein.journals/laws8 and id is 1 raw text is: 




        laws


Article

The Legal Profession in the Era of Digital Capitalism:

Disruption or New Dawn?

Salvatore Caserta * and Mikael Rask Madsen
ICourts, The Centre of Excellence for International Courts, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen,
Karen  Blixens Plads 16, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark; mikael.madsen@jur.ku.dk
*  Correspondence: salvatore.caserta@jur.ku.dk
                                                                                       check for
 Received: 3 December 2018; Accepted: 28 December 2018; Published: 4 January 2019      updates

 Abstract: This article investigates the impact of what we label digital capitalism on the structure and
 organization of the legal profession. We explore whether the rise of digital capitalism is transforming
 the dynamics of the legal field by the introduction of new actors and ways of practicing law, which
 might challenge the traditional control (and monopoly) of jurists on the production of law. We find
 that not only have new service providers already entered the legal market, but also new on-line tools
 for solving legal disputes or producing legal documents are gaining a foothold. Similarly, we also
 find that new intelligent search systems are challenging the role of junior lawyers and paralegals
 with regard to reviewing large sets of documents. However, big data techniques deployed to predict
 future courts' decisions are not yet advanced enough to pose a challenge. Overall, we argue that
 these developments will not only change legal practices, but are also likely to influence the internal
 structure and organization of the legal field. In particular, we argue that the processes of change
 associated with digitalization is further accelerating the economization and commodification of the
 practice of law, whereby lawyers are decreasingly disinterested brokers in society and defenders of
 the public good, and increasingly service firms at the cutting edge of the capitalist economy. These
 developments  are also triggering new forms of stratification of the legal field. While some legal
 actors will likely benefit from digitalization and expand their business, either by integrating new
 technologies to reach more clients or by developing new niche areas of practices, the more routinized
 forms of legal practice are facing serious challenges and will most likely be replaced by technology
 and associated service firms.

 Keywords:  digitalization; digital capitalism; the legal profession, digital society; new capitalism



 1. Introduction

     Popular writings are already predicting the rise of a new societal form: the digital society. In
most accounts, this phenomenon  is presented as a further development of an already increasingly
networked  society, triggered by massive technological advances in the realm of communication and
handling of data. There is little doubt that the current technological advances in terms of digitalization,
big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) have important societal consequences.' One key societal
institution that is likely impacted by these developments is law and, relatedly, the legal profession.2
Law, whether  understood as a profession, a method of solving disputes, a tool to achieve justice, a
superstructure in the hands of the powerful to protect their interests, or, more simply, an instrument
to guide human behaviour, is at its core an intellectual endeavour that depends on handling, storing,


1  See, for instance, (Schwab 2017) See, also (Sennett 2006).
2  For an informed discussion on how digitalization may impact the legal profession, see (Assion 2017).


Laws 2019, 8, 1; doi:10.3390/laws8010001


www.mdpi.com/journal/laws

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