Well, statistically nobody. According to a survey done by case management software company Smokeball, only 9% of legal tech employees have a legal education. When it comes to career background, only 18% of employees come from the legal industry in general. The survey doesn’t specify how many of the 9% of employees with a legal education had passed a bar exam or practiced law for any amount of time, or were actually in-house counsel and not associated with product development.
Maybe this low percentage is the root cause of the legal tech industry’s obsession with solving all the wrong problems, or maybe 9% is a typical percentage of ex-professionals to have on staff for companies trying to provide tech solutions to that industry. After all, an internet legal marketing or SEO company wouldn’t need a large percentage of their staff to have legal experience. But when it comes to actually writing software that serves attorneys in a niche area of practice, attorneys would want to know the people who made the software understand their practice before trying to sell them a new way of doing it.
The tech industry’s mantra of “disrupt all the industries” hasn’t yet had a cataclysmic effect on the legal industry the way Uber is disrupting the taxi industry. The legal industry is fundamentally different from industries like retail stores or taxi companies, mainly in that “legal services” is a fundamentally broad and nebulous concept that can be different state-to-state, county-to-county, city-to-city. The legal industry’s rule books (yes, there is more than one rule book) aren’t made by the free market—they’re made by courts, legislators or lobbyists, anti-competitive bar associations, city councils, and so forth. The tech industry has a very hard time understanding that just because they make something that they think is neat or incorporates bitcoin in some way, that doesn’t mean those in a position of power, like judges, “will have to accept it [because] it’s mathematic.”
This is not to say that the tech industry is fundamentally incapable of understanding the wants and needs of both lawyers and people in need of legal services. The Smokeball survey predicts a trend toward a more even balance of tech and legal backgrounds in the legal tech industry. Perhaps we will start to see more industry crossover between lawyers and programmers, but until then we may be stuck with more stuff neither lawyers nor their clients want or need.
Featured image: “Stressed business woman in the office.” from Shutterstock.