No. 45: Revisiting the Regulation of the Legal Profession in the European Union in Light of Legal Technology


Publish Date:
June 5, 2020
Publication Title:
European Union (EU) Law Working Papers
Stanford Law School
Working Paper
  • Irene Ng (Huang Ying), Revisiting the Regulation of the Legal Profession in the European Union in Light of Legal Technology, EU Law Working Papers No. 45, Stanford-Vienna Transatlantic Technology Law Forum (2020).
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Legal technology, or also known as legal tech, has been under the spotlight in recent years: ranging from litigation to transactional work, legal tech has received significant media coverage and has been described as a disruptive technology that is poised to impact the legal industry. Despite the media coverage on how legal technology will take over lawyers, or “uberize” lawyers, little has been discussed or debated on how legal technology should be regulated in the legal industry. This is interesting as lawyers, on the other hand, have always been heavily regulated and subject to strict ethical rules to ensure consumer protection and also achieve more altruistic goals, such as to safeguard the basic human right of access to counsel and access to justice. In this case, if legal technology is competing with lawyers in the legal market to provide legal services directly to client-users, should they then be regulated in a similar way to lawyers? If yes, how should they be regulated to ensure that these noble policy aims are achieved? Furthermore, how should they be regulated in the EU, where there are multiple member states with vastly different national rules on the regulation of the legal profession?

The aim of this working paper is to therefore determine whether a new framework to regulate legal service providers – which includes both lawyers and legal technology companies – should be enacted considering the developments in technology. However, finding an approach begets asking fundamental questions, such as: What is the relationship between legal tech and the legal industry? How has legal tech affected the legal industry and to what degree? Why do we regulate lawyers, and how should we regulate them in light of legal technology? Should legal technology be regulated? With these questions in mind, this thesis hopes to analyze the challenges faced by the legal industry and to address these issues that all of us as lawyers and participants in the legal industry are currently facing or will eventually come head on with.

This working paper is the doctoral thesis that was submitted by the author to the University of Vienna’s Faculty of Law in part fulfilment for the requirements for the doctoral programme in law on 10 September 2019. Since its submission, several developments have occurred in this field in the EU. An update to reflect these new changes may be considered at a later point in time.

This thesis has been cited in the style of the Oxford University Standard for the Citation of Legal Authority, Fourth Edition.