Hacking Our Way to a Brighter Practice of Law


Lauren Mack is a co-founder and director of Legal Hackers, a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, technologists, and academics who explore and develop creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology. When she’s not planning the next panel, workshop, or hackathon for the New York Legal Hackers chapter, Lauren practices corporate, securities, copyright, and trademark law at Riveles Wahab LLP.

What projects or ideas have you been focusing on recently?

Our major project at Legal Hackers has been bringing together the global law and technology community. We currently have around 20 chapters in four continents, and we’ve found a lot of commonality across borders. Issues such as drone regulation, net neutrality, music licensing, and of course the use of technology in the practice of law have been discussed by our chapters both in the United States and abroad. As far as our local New York chapter is concerned, topics that we have recently discussed or plan to tackle soon include legal issues in native advertising, cryptocurrencies, and data privacy.

What could lawyers look at in a new way that would benefit their clients and society?

Lawyers need to start seeing technology literacy as a required skill for their profession. No matter what kind of clients you serve, their lives or businesses are affected by technology in some way, and you as their attorney need to understand that impact. Even when technology does not come directly into your representation, the ability to be able to use modern research or case management tools is essential. Taking it even further, being able to write your own programs to address your specific drafting, research, and/or client management needs can be extremely useful. Soon the ability to write basic code will be considered a standard skill everyone should know. The time to start learning is now.

What one thing about the practice of law would you change if you could?

Accessibility, both to legal services and to the laws themselves. Access to justice continues to be a major problem, and events such as Hackcess to Justice and other social justice hackathons have been great in bringing attention and progress to the issue. In particular, one problem is that access to laws, regulations, court filings, and other government documents can sometimes come with significant barriers. In some cases these documents are either not digitally accessible or come with a cost, including seemingly nominal fees that can quickly add up to be prohibitively expensive. A few Legal Hackers chapters have tackled these issues, and our Washington, D.C. chapter has been especially active in this area.

What is the most exciting development you have seen recently in the practice of law?

The use of blockchain technology to build better, more secure legal tools. For example, there are now smart contracts that enforce the negotiation or performance of agreements, including by automating payments. Other companies are working on improved music licensing databases that can also automate royalty payments. Someday these same tools could be used to automatically distribute assets under a will. There are so many interesting ideas out there that are starting to become reality.

What technologies, business models, and trends do you think will have the biggest impact on the practice of law over the next two years?

Increased use of new technology by attorneys to make their practice more efficient.

What’s the best new law practice idea you have heard recently?

Using machine learning to analyze contracts. For transactional attorneys like myself, reviewing and proofing contracts can take up a significant amount of time, but a few companies have developed tools that use machine learning to identify certain provisions, harmonize defined terms, and all sorts of other useful tasks that when done by a human are time-consuming and will inevitably fail to be error-free. I’m interested to see how machine learning can improve the practice of law as these types of programs are refined and become more widely used.

About the Author

Nicholas Gaffney is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board and is a veteran public relations practitioner in San Francisco.

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