There is a new discipline emerging within the field of law, a discipline that doesn’t require a law degree or entrance to the state bar. What is this discipline? It is that of the legal engineer. Dig deeply into the structure of the modern legal sector and you’ll discover that legal engineers are playing a crucial role in driving the future of law.
By definition, an engineer is a professional who utilizes the principles of engineering to create, design, analyze, and test machines and methodologies. There are all sorts of engineers across nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. In the computer world, software engineers and their IT counterparts are the ones who make it all work behind the scenes.
Translating this to the legal sector requires looking into legal technology. Legal engineers are those within legal tech that are creating and maintaining the industry’s technology arm. They are the ones creating software applications like NuLaw. They are the ones harnessing the benefits of big data, artificial intelligence, etc. to make the practice of law more productive and efficient.
Data Governance and Automation
One of the more exciting areas for legal engineers right now is data governance. According to a Fast Company article by contributor Ciara Byrne, data governance has finally entered the era of automation. Legal engineers are hard at work figuring out how to apply automation in a way that protects data while still enhancing how attorneys do their business.
The idea of data governance is encapsulated in another new position known as chief privacy officer (CPO). It is a CPO’s responsibility to make sure the data privacy is maintained on a daily basis. CPOs are now working with legal engineers on ways to make that happen automatically.
So what is data governance? It is that set of rules that determines who can access data, how it can be accessed, and what it can be used for. It might be easier to understand the concept by talking about the NuLaw legal case management software app.
Law Firm Data in the Cloud
NuLaw is a cloud application offered by way of the software as a service (SaaS) model. As a cloud-based application, all of the data contained within a law firm’s environment is stored in the cloud. That makes the data accessible from anywhere with just a mobile device and an internet connection.
While near universal access is quite convenient, data cannot be made available to anyone and everyone. So software engineers must establish permissions granting access to key individuals. Some individuals have access to all data. Others, like bookkeepers and accountants for example, might be restricted only to certain kinds of data required to do their jobs.
Data governance establishes the rules by which the software will disseminate information. Rules establish who has access to each kind of data. The rules dictate, through the use of permissions, who gets in and who is left locked out. Rules also dictate how data is stored on mobile devices and laptop computers, if it is stored at all.
Why It All Matters
The title of this post asked not only what a legal engineer is, but why it matters. The answer to that second question is simple: legal engineers will be at the forefront of determining how case management software is developed in the future. That means they will also be determining how client data is used and managed. If you ever have need of legal services, that means you will be affected by the decisions these engineers make. And now you know.