Legaltech is in the air! At the moment, it seems rather obvious that the application of technology to the provision and commercialisation of legal services is not a flash in the pan.
In relation to Spain and just during the last year, we have mapped and categorised more than a hundred Legaltech projects. We also co-organised the first Congress about it and recently we opened a specialised area (in Spanish) to talk about it thoroughly and to help those interested in it.
But Legaltech in Spain also means accelerators, competitions, hackathons, associations and dozens of projects on the move. If we look beyond Spain, Legaltech is an enormous trend in the legal sector.
Therefore, it’s crystal clear that something is moving in the subject of legal technology.
Why Open Legaltech makes sense
However, something still not so obvious is just starting to happen. For a lawyer or a small law firm the access to Legaltech is going to have at least two important barriers: the level of knowledge and the cost of the technology.
On one hand, right now the usual legal professional is still unaware of all the Legaltech tools and services appearing everyday, more even about their features or usefulness. Something that can create a significant knowledge barrier in the medium-long term. On the other hand, the cost to access these tools or services is usually too high for a normal lawyer or someone who is just starting in the profession. Going beyond, all of that can create some significant digital fractures in the legal sector.
Additionally, when we talk about technology on other fields or areas of expertise, there are plenty of examples of proprietary software as well as open one. On the Legaltech field it also makes sense. After all, open source Legaltech could facilitate the access to technology to plenty of legal professionals, at the same time that reduces the knowledge barrier or improves the security of legal tools.
Nevertheless, open source Legaltech is nowadays almost none existent beyond some data sets or individual initiatives such as ContraxSuite from Lex Predict (we love it!).
That’s why we think that open source Legaltech, that we also call “Open Legaltech”, is an interesting area where it makes sense to spend time and effort, especially now that everything is just beginning.
Jade is case management for SME law firms
A practical example of this concept of “Open Legaltech” in action is Jade, an open source case management software for small and medium law firms and independent lawyers (the majority of the sector, in fact). With this tool, a lawyer can manage clients, cases and related documents easily and with plenty of options. The open source aspect means that a lawyer can freely download it, inspect the code, install on their own server or integrate it with other Legaltech tools.
Some details about the Jade preview and its features: it can work as a digital repository of case documents and activity. It can also be used for time recording and reporting and with an easy to learn interface. Jade works on mobile and desktop and it’s secure, scalable and can be fully customised. For more information on the features, check out this overview slide deck and this Github code repository.
In any case, Jade is still in alpha, the name is just an internal code for development, it still requires more than a simple double click for its installation, it’s only in English yet and there are plenty of details to finish. But those of us collaborating on the project will meet and talk about it next week at the Legal Geek Conference in London and so we thought that it would be a good moment to raise the curtain and receive some initial feedback.
For anyone curious about the background of the project, the idea for Jade surfaced in May 2016 when I met Vikram Vaswani, an open source developer, author and consultant from India, when he was on a visit to Spain. We were casually chatting about open source tools for the legal profession and realized that there were very few open source options for lawyers in their daily work. I described a list of common requirements and Vikram, together with his friend Harish, started developing the tool as an open project in their spare time. Over the last year and half, we have continued our dialogue, and through a combination of my industry insights and their technology capabilities, we have forged a successful collaboration.
Although there are only three of us working on the project currently and we are able to work on it only during our free time, we are eager to spread the word about what we have done so far, get more users to try it or suggest features and invite other developers to contribute their expertise.
We want to see an open source Legaltech community with plenty of projects and tools available. Jade is our first step towards this goal.
To be continued…