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Practice Management

Exploring the Evolving Landscape of Legal Technology in South Africa, Australia, India, and the UK

Leah Molatseli, Vanessa Seah, Komal Gupta, and Sophiya Volkova


  • In South Africa, legal tech is experiencing growth and adoption, improving access to legal services and enhancing efficiency.
  • Australia's legal tech market is driven by grassroots movements and small law firms, but there is a need for more representation of women-led startups.
  • India faces unique challenges in legal tech adoption due to a lack of standardization and limited investor interest, but government initiatives and the judiciary are driving its development.
  • The United Kingdom is a pioneer in legal tech, with established tools and a focus on regulating emerging technologies. 
Exploring the Evolving Landscape of Legal Technology in South Africa, Australia, India, and the UK
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What is legal technology or, in Australia, legaltech? Legal technology (legal tech) is an umbrella term capturing an array of tools used by lawyers, including legal research software, practice management software, and regulatory and compliance software. This global perspective of legal tech discusses the scope of legal tech and its implications for law practice and access to justice (South Africa), major drivers of legal tech that create opportunities for small and midsize firms (Australia), challenges associated with applying technology to the law (India), and the need for technologists with legal training to make useful tools (UK).

Legal Technology in South Africa: A Blossoming Ecosystem

Recently, the South African legal landscape has experienced a surge of innovation driven by the rapid growth of legal tech. South Africa recently launched an online court system, Court Online, that allows law firms or litigants to file court documents electronically. Legal tech ecosystem builders made up of technologists, lawyers, and other experts have also emerged, like the South African Legal Technology Network.

Legal tech in South Africa is an evolving ecosystem, with new players entering the market and existing ones expanding their offerings. For example, Libryo is a legal tech start-up that offers a platform for businesses to understand, manage, and stay up to date with their legal compliance obligations. Legal Interact is a legal tech company that builds multiple solutions for core legal stakeholders on the continent, like lawyers and in-house legal teams in corporate organizations.

South African Legal Tech: Promising Growth and Adoption

Although still in its nascent stages compared to more developed markets, the South African legal tech scene has shown promising growth and adoption. It also faces several challenges, including resistance to change, limited funding, and a lack of technical skills within the legal profession. Additionally, the digital divide in South Africa exacerbates the challenge of implementing legal tech tools across the population, particularly in rural and disadvantaged communities. The need for legal tech in South Africa, and by extension, the African continent, is evident in the region’s unique challenges, such as limited access to legal services, growing regulatory complexity, and the increasing importance of data protection.

Despite these hurdles, legal tech and traditional legal industries have taken steps to foster the local development of legal tech tools. Initiatives include legal tech hackathons, awareness campaigns, funding opportunities through organizations like The Hague Institute for Innovation in Law, and the promotion of legal tech professional development courses like the Law @ Work course at the University of Cape Town.

Legal tech has significantly impacted the practice of law in South Africa. Law firms have increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved accuracy by automating tasks such as document drafting and contract review. Furthermore, legal tech has democratized access to legal services through online platforms, forcing traditional law firms to adapt to remain competitive. Enhanced data security and compliance have also become critical components of legal practice, driven by advancements in legal tech. Finally, with increased collaboration facilitated by cloud-based solutions such as Matter Manager, there are more efficient legal teams and better resource allocation and planning.

The Future of Legal Tech in South Africa Brims with Potential

Legal tech makes legal services more affordable, ensures compliance with regulations, and enhances data security, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and secure legal environment. South Africa will likely see increased adoption of technology by legal professionals, greater collaboration between law firms and tech companies, and the emergence of innovative, homegrown solutions tailored to the unique needs of the South African legal landscape. As the ecosystem continues to mature, the benefits of legal tech will become increasingly apparent, ushering in a new era of improved access to justice and legal services for all South Africans.

—Leah Molatseli

Improving Female Representation in Australia’s Grassroots-Driven Legaltech Start-ups

Australia is home to 26 million people, less than the state of California and less than half of the total population of the United Kingdom. In fact, there are three times more sheep in Australia than there are people. Despite its small population, Australia’s legaltech market is vibrant and kaleidoscopic (see the 21-22 Global Legaltech Report). Unlike some jurisdictions where the initiatives are government directed, the Diversity in Legaltech Report 2021 found that the legaltech market in Australia is largely driven by a “strong grassroots movement of technologists, lawyers, and legal entrepreneurs.”

Small Firms and Solo Practitioners Contributing to Legaltech Innovation

Legal services are too expensive for an overwhelming majority of Australians, often referred to as the “missing middle.” Legaltech and innovative business models are making legal services more affordable and bridging the access to justice gap, including in civil disputes such as family law, employment law, migration law, personal injury, consumer rights, welfare law, housing, and tenancy. Although corporations are leading with innovative ideas, many legaltech start-ups in Australia are spawned in the space of small law and sole practitioners, including barristers, which make up 82 percent of the Australian legal profession.

Family Property and Smokeball are two Australian companies with a US presence whose founders have firsthand experience of the challenges facing small law practitioners in regional Australia. These start-ups seek to use technology and innovation to solve the problem of cost and inaccessible court processes. Immediation, an online dispute resolution platform, and e-Brief Ready, an electronic briefing program, were founded by barristers who wanted to save time and cut costs while making court processes more accessible.

Needing More Female Representation in Legal Start-ups

The Australian legaltech ecosystem comprises founders/sellers, buyers, funders, law firm–backed accelerators, and organizations like the Australian Legal Technology Association (ALTA) and the Centre of Legal Innovation. These stakeholders have created a conducive environment for legaltech start-ups. For instance, the University of New South Wales/Allens hub provides an annual platform for start-ups to pitch their ideas. One key challenge facing the legaltech industry in Australia is the significant under-representation of women-led legaltech start-ups. According to the 21-22 Global Legaltech Report, legaltech start-ups with at least one female founder make up fewer than 31 percent of legaltech start-ups, and start-ups with only female founders are at 21 percent.

Lowering the barriers for women-led legaltech start-ups is important because research has shown that women-led start-ups experience lower failure rates, produce more capital-efficient companies, and achieve higher venture capital (VC) returns. Moreover, women now outnumber men in the Australian legal profession. Diversity helps with problem-solving and market growth, as a diverse founder pool creates more opportunities.

The significant underrepresentation of women-led start-ups could be due to a lack of VC funding, which is crucial for the transition of early-stage companies. Only 19 percent of Australia’s legaltech companies with a female founder have raised funds compared to 50 percent of companies with male founders.

Increasing visibility and voice is key to overcoming the VC funding issue and increasing the number of women-led legaltech start-ups in Australia, according to Karen Finch, founder of Legally Yours and president of the ALTA. The recently established Women of Australia Legal Technology Association (WALTA) enables women in legaltech to access funding, education, resources, and training. The association recently published a playbook for Women on a Legal Technology Journey.

The Australian experience illustrates that a nurturing environment is critical to growing start-ups. Collaboration from stakeholders throughout the industry provides a conducive environment for growth.

—Vanessa Seah

Legal Tech in India: Steady Strides with a Concerted Focus

The use of legal tech in India started in the early 2000s and has been growing steadily since to today’s hybrid state. Many lawyers and law firms are actively using legal tech tools for a variety of work, and the judiciary is adopting legal tech tools and even considering using AI to speed up the judicial process and, consequently, access to justice. India’s adoption of legal tech has faced unique challenges. With the right tools, good processes, smart resourcing, targeted client solutions, and a clear understanding of the market, legal tech could transform the Indian legal community.

The most popular and accepted technologies for law firms and their clients are related to contracts, compliance, and research. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) uses various tools such as Kira, Casemine, Litera, Relativity, and Ment, which have proved useful in due diligence, legal research, proofreading, e-discovery, and document automation, respectively.

Legal Tech Challenges in India

Although the growth of the legal tech industry in India has been steady in recent years, it has also stalled at times due to a variety of challenges. One of the biggest is the lack of nationally grown technologies that cater to the Indian legal market’s unique needs. Legal documents in India are not standardized and vary by jurisdiction, which has impeded legal tech development in India. Additionally, due to the lack of standardization, foreign tools may not be trained on Indian documents, further slowing the growth of the legal tech industry. Other challenges include the varying level of supply and demand for legal tech in India, scant investor interest, scarcity of dedicated legal tech incubators, and an impending global recession.

Government, Judiciary, and Lawyers Driving the Development of Legal Tech

For several years, the Indian government has been running the “Digital India” program, which aims to promote the adoption of technology in the legal industry and other sectors. Moreover, in recent years, the Indian judiciary has become technology-friendly and a driver in the development of legal tech tools.

The Supreme Court of India has implemented various technology solutions to streamline court processes and improve access to justice, such as the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project. The project provides easy and transparent access to case information and court services to litigants and lawyers across India. Additionally, several high courts (appellate) and district courts (local) in India have also adopted various technological solutions, such as e-filing, paperless courts, video conferencing, and virtual hearings.

Bigger law firms also lead the charge by integrating legal tech solutions into their practices and client solutions, supporting and developing new technologies. For example, CAM runs the first legal tech incubator in the country, Prarambh, which aims to help domestic talent develop quality tech products for the industry.

The Future of Legal Tech in India

The collaboration between the government, judiciary, lawyers, clients, and tech companies is the future of legal tech in India. With stakeholders working together and the increasing use of legal tech in diverse areas, the Indian legal tech industry is already growing. It will continue to improve as development increases for customized legal tech solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of the Indian legal market. With more investors getting involved, increased use from practitioners, and the development of AI and machine-learning technologies that can automate routine legal tasks, the Indian legal tech industry is in line to establish itself as the major driver of the global legal tech industry.

—Komal Gupta

Legal Technologists in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a pioneer for being one of the first countries to introduce and integrate legal tech. Most law firms in the United Kingdom use legal tech tools and have dedicated legal tech departments. Moreover, the legal tech vendor market is thriving, and law firms are spoilt for choice regarding what legal tech provider(s) to choose.

Tools and Challenges in the UK Legal Tech Industry

In the United Kingdom, legal tech tools are used for a variety of tasks, including contract automation and process improvement. Currently, a major development concerns enhancing AI capabilities for data extraction and contract review. Specifically, some companies use generative AI to extract a clause in a contract and assess the clause for risk. Essentially, companies are trying to use AI to generate contract insights.

With the welcome addition of accreditation for legal engineers and the rise of AI, the UK legal tech industry’s main challenge is regulating the new technology. A concern with the allure of ChatGPT-4 and other emerging legal tech tools is whether these tools should be able to access client data. One data breach involving client data could forever ruin an entire firm’s reputation and put the industry in jeopardy. With the industry continuing to grow, UK regulators and legal technologists are buckling down to create comprehensive frameworks for regulating and safely integrating ChatGPT-4 and other legal tech newcomers to ensure that data is protected and trust is maintained in the technology.

Investing in Legal Tech Education for Legal Professionals

The industry is expanding to include formal education in the field and promote the continual development of legal tech tools. Scotland has introduced an official accreditation for legal technologists. The University of Law has also introduced a post-graduate course in Legal Technology. This demonstrates the commitment to the legal tech industry. With accreditation and coursework, legal engineering is open to anyone, and one does not need to study law or computer science to follow this career path.

Legal Tech Provides Alternative Career Paths for Solicitors and Barristers

It is not uncommon for qualified solicitors or even barristers in the UK to enter the legal tech profession. A better work-life balance and a more creative space could appeal to many lawyers, and the accreditation and post-graduate courses in legal tech act as a security for graduates who may be unsure about the viability of a career in legal tech. Formal qualifications will become an area for serious development as the talent pool for legal engineers is small, but the demand is very high and will only get higher.

—Sophiya Volkova

Legal Tech Is Here to Stay

Legal tech offers improvements for access to justice, attorney efficiency, and innovation from small law firms and sole practitioners. With the rise of legal tech and AI tools like ChatGPT, lawyers worldwide may wonder if legal tech tools will replace them. But the above examples from India and the United Kingdom show that human technologists are still needed to design tools to fit legal frameworks.

Can AI replace a lawyer’s unique ability to spot issues, conduct legal analysis, frame a persuasive and human story, and apply it to the law and the facts? For the foreseeable future, at least, legal tech tools are here to aid lawyers in plying their craft.