University of Helsinki's brand new Legal Tech Lab is a "non-profit interdisciplinary pilot project on legal technology". - Finland is a tech dense country and has a very innovative start-up scene. Legal Tech does not however involve just that. It has very much to do with the way society will evolve in the next 5-10 years, says research assistant Hanna Pakaslahti.
The lab will host a legal tech hackathon to examine the tension between and disruption and regulation in the fall. In june, the lab invites Gavin Wood, founder of blockchain-based smart contract platform Ethereum, and Gemma Galdon Clavell, policy analyst and founder of Ethicas Research & Consulting, for a conference on law and digitalization.
Are you the first law school in the nordics to launch an initiative like this?
- Yes, as far as we know. We launched the initiative in Slush last November, after the Dean of the faculty, Kimmo Nuotio, gave it a green light, says Hanna Pakaslahti.
What kinds of skills will lawyers need in the future and why? Coding, security, databases, blockchain, AI tools..?
- We get asked a lot, what is Legal Tech? So probably the first skill is to recognise technology’s impact on a field of law.
- In my opinion, there probably are not many fields where a tech impact is not felt. Legal tech is of course referred to when offering legal services using technology, but in a broader meaning it is also the understanding of what legal aspects are triggered when applying technology. So legal tech lawyers might act as a go-between traditional legal institutions and regulation and the technology industry. A legal tech lawyer might start a tech business themselves. All of the skills you mentioned are relevant but none, perhaps with the exception of data security and protection issues, are absolute requirements. Rather, they are fields of expertise of choice.
Do you think lawyers have an ethical responsibility to keep up-to-date with technology, to be able to keep data confidential, deliver services efficiently etc?
- Yes, in relation to handling clients data safely and upholding confidentiality, there is an ethical aspect. But more relevant than that is that lawyers are, when using electronic means of communication and transfering data etc at least as culpable of data protection breeches as any other service provider but are required to be aware of regulation more than others.
Do you plan on providing courses for law students?
- We focus on bringing in outside business and governmental interests and information related to law and technology to the whole faculty. For the students we have at the moment a call for papers for our june 9th conference, the autumn starts a legal tech course which aims to bring law students in touch with multidisciplinary teams in a hackathon. The hackathon is going to be a yearly event.
- The thesis bank project is gathering real life topics to be solved from companies and other entities. Students may choose a topic from the bank and get help from the lab in tech law and the company in the technological aspects of the work. We have also affliated researchers that have technology aspects in their work, but help and collaborate with all of the faculty researchers if needed. Of course we are trying to encourage masters students to pursue a career in legal tech and maybe even research. We are also planning collaborations with various companies, law firms and others, and public entities, but they will be launched later in the year. All of these projects are chances for students to get involved in hands-on legal tech.
What kind of ideas do you hope to see at the hackathon?
We will give a specific task, which we haven’t announced yet, so we are aiming at very duable, practical outcomes, that could be implemented fairly easily.
- The Hackathon is as much about teaching law students to integrate to multi-disciplinary teams and learning agile team work as the outcome. We hope to learn a lot this first time about how this can be achieved and how this could be then later be integrated to over all faculty teaching too.
Your objective is to raise awareness – how is the awareness among finnish lawyers today?
There are many interesting initiatives and groups that involve also lawyers. Finnish Legal Tech Forum is one and the Legal Design Summit. But all in all, a lot of work has to be done. Finland is a tech dense country and has a very innovative start-up scene. Legal Tech does not however involve just that. It has very much to do with the way society will evolve in the next 5-10 years. Unfortunately the legal field and majority of lawyers still see tech as a tool and know very little about its possible implications, positive or negative, to legal processes and services.