#LegalTech v #LawTech – WTF?

Do you say #LawTech or #LegalTech?

Or both?

Or neither?

Does it actually matter?

At Legal Geek we feel the industry is a little divided over which portmanteau it prefers, with our desktop analytics suggesting that #LegalTech is more prevalent than #LawTech, by a smidge. Stats from Twitter for the last 7 days are below:



[source: Keyhole]

We felt further excavations into this quarry of lexical semantics were required so we recruited doyens of the industry to give us a hand, including legal technology experts Richard Susskind and Richard Tromans, journalist and author Joanna Goodman, and our very own Jimmy Vestbirk.

In the LawTech corner

Richard SusskindRichard Susskind OBE. Richard is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to major professional firms and to national governments. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on technology in the legal sector.

“Until about a year ago, I only spoke about LegalTech. Recently, I have used both interchangeably. My inclination for the future is to switch to LawTech. For these six reasons:

  1. I tend to associate LegalTech with back office technologies, such as accounting systems, and much less with new lawyer-changing technologies like AI, online courts, etc. I feel that LawTech is (or should be) a broader category.
  2. I think LegalTech is now sounding a bit tired. It has been used for many years now and a refresh of brand appeals to me.
  3. I feel LegalTech is regarded by many lawyers and judges as more for technologists than for lawyers – we can rightly package LawTech as being more inclusive.
  4. LawTech has one less syllable and slips off the tongue more easily. I notice this when lecturing.
  5. I find a lot of investors are speaking more of LawTech than LegalTech, and while we shouldn’t allow the tail to wag the dog, we should listen to the market.
  6. In drawing the distinction between the substantive law relating to technology and the use of technology in the law, I find LawTech works better. All of that said, I prefer ‘legal technologist to ‘law technologist’.”

In the LegalTech corner

RICHARD TROMANSRichard Tromans. Richard is the founder of Tromans Consulting, which advises on legal innovation. He is also the founder of Artificial Lawyer, a news website covering AI and automation in the legal field.

“For me LegalTech is the right term to describe the activities of this sector. Why? If we look at other sectors, we talk about ‘RegTech’, ‘InsurTech’, ‘PropTech’ and ‘FinTech’.  In each case the first part of the term modifies the word ‘tech’. Here, ‘regulation’, ‘insurance’, ‘property’ and ‘finance’ refer to the type of work done, i.e. the sector, or industry.

In which case, we should use the term ‘legal’ here, as we talk about the ‘legal industry’, ‘legal market’ and ‘legal sector’, i.e. we are talking about technology that is made use of by a sector of the economy. Hence, LegalTech.

“LawTech has always seemed like the wrong term to describe the sector. Law refers to the practise of law, i.e. the subject ‘The Law’, which we study at college, or which we talk about in social terms, i.e. ‘That is what you must do, it’s the law.’ Most people don’t say the ‘law industry’, or ‘the law sector’.

“LawTech would only make sense if it referred to technology that was specific to a sub-group of legal tasks that related directly to ‘The Law’ itself, e.g. tech that focused on drafting laws, or perhaps helped students to understand legal issues.

“But ‘law’ is the wrong term to describe an industry sector, at least if we keep up the same linguistic style of other sectors. For example, we don’t call FinTech, ‘MoneyTech’ or ‘TransactionTech’, we describe it by the industry as a whole. Hence, LawTech doesn’t work as an umbrella term.”

Read Richard Tromans’ thoughts on LegalTech v LawTech in full in this blog post for Legal Geek.

Joanna’s view

Joanna GoodmanJoanna Goodman. Joanna is an IT columnist for the Law Society Gazette and writes regular features for The Guardian, The Times business supplements and Internet of Business about emerging technology topics, including artificial intelligence, robots, chatbots, connected devices and virtual reality.

“When I joined twitter in 2009, there were two hashtags: #LegalTech, short for legal technology or tech that was used to support law firm operations, e.g. practice management systems, document management systems, CRM systems.  #LegalIT was generally managed by an IT director (most law firms have an IT director rather than a CTO), whose responsibility was choosing, implementing and maintaining a standard suite of technology solutions, which would include IT security, websites, extranets, email management, mobile communications.

“The #LawTech hashtag has become popular as law firm technology has emerged from the back office and become more lawyer centric – and client centric too. Now we think of LawTech as a way of delivering law rather than a support service for legal operations. As FinTech has become more prevalent, LawTech, which sounds similar has become more popular. LawTech isn’t limited to law firms and a lot of LawTech start-ups are client facing, and about delivering legal advice/legal services straight to the client. Perhaps LawTech is more than a hashtag, and like FinTech, is a new branch of the legal services industry.”

What you said on social media….

Jimmy’s thoughts…

Jimmy Vestbirk


Jimmy Vestbirk. Jimmy is the founder of Legal Geek.

“As our contributors highlight, there is no dominant consensus on whether LawTech or LegalTech should be used when referring to technology’s use in the legal sector.

“I personally think the industry is better served if one term prevails because it is easier from a start-up perspective to sell the journey and the change going on within the legal sector if we use one term. Venture capitalists understand FinTech because it is the only term of its kind in finance. My worry with LegalTech and LawTech is that the world outside of law may be put off (even if it’s just in a very small way) because of our varied terminology. Let’s not forget that LegalIT is also used by some people.

“My other worry is that I must be mad to actually be thinking like this!

“Surely there is a school of thought that says it doesn’t matter what terms you use, we’re all talking about the same thing ultimately. Yet that way of thinking doesn’t take into account the excellent points highlighted here by Richard Susskind, Richard Tromans and Joanna Goodman. All of whom are authorities in legal technology.

“Ultimately – whatever we think or prefer ourselves – the market will decide on its own. Whichever term people feel the most comfortable with and whichever term they feel best describes the use of technology in the legal sector; that is the word which will prevail. But I don’t expect the debate to slow up anytime soon!”

Legal Geek Conference