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Ambient Computing for lawyers

In our previous article, we discussed ambient computing: what it is, and what the benefits and challenges are. In this article we discuss what the relevance of ambient computing is for lawyers. We look at ambient law, which deals with the legal aspects of ambient computing. Then we ask ourselves, “what are the benefits of ambient computing for lawyers?”, and “what are the challenges?”. But first we start with a short recap on what ambient computing is.

A short recap: what is ambient computing?

In our previous article, we explained that “ambient computing is the idea of embedding computing power into everyday objects and environments, to make them smart, connected, and responsive. The goal is to make it easier for users to take full advantage of technology without having to worry about the details. (…) Ambient computing relies on a variety of technologies, such as sensors, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, voice recognition, gesture control, and wearable devices, to create a seamless and personalized user experience. Ambient computing devices are designed to be unobtrusive and blend into the background, so that users can focus on their tasks and goals rather than on the technology itself.” As such, the concept of ambient computing is closely related to the concept of the Internet of Things.

Examples of ambient computing technology are found in smart homes, cars, business premises, as well as other domains, such as health care, education, entertainment, and transportation, etc.

So, now that we know what ambient computing is, we can focus on the next question: what does ambient computing mean for lawyers and the legal profession? Three items come to mind: what are the legal aspects of ambient computing? What are the benefits for lawyers? What are the risks and challenges for lawyers?

Ambient Law: the legal aspects of ambient computing

When the Internet of Things was starting to take form, the term ambient law was introduced to refer to the legal aspects of using ambient technology. There are four main areas where legal issue can arise, and we can pair them in two sets of two. On the one hand, there is data privacy and security. On the other hand, there is liability and accountability.

Data Privacy and Security

Ambient computing involves collecting, processing, and sharing large amounts of personal and sensitive data from various sources and devices, which raises significant privacy and security concerns.

Privacy: In our previous article we wrote that ambient computing collects vast amounts of data about users’ behaviour, preferences, location, health, and more. This data can be used for beneficial purposes, such as improving services and personalization. But it can also be misused or compromised by malicious actors or third parties. Or they can be sold to third parties, often without the users’ knowledge or consent. Many car manufacturers, e.g., are guilty of this.

In this context, it is worth referring to the SWAMI project, which stands for Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence. This project took a precautionary approach in its exploration of the privacy risks in Ambient Intelligence (AmI) and sought ways to reduce those risks.

The project discovered that several “dark scenarios” where possible that would have negative implications for privacy protection. It identified various threats and vulnerabilities. Legal analysis of these scenarios also showed there are shortcomings in the current legal framework and that the current legislation cannot provide adequate privacy protection in the AmI environment.

The Project concluded that a new approach to privacy and data protection is needed, based on control and responsibility rather than on restriction and prohibition.

Security: Again, there are several aspects to the security side of ambient computing. On the one hand, all the personal data it collects must be protected. Another side is that in essence each new ambient device increases the security risk. Ambient technologies can expose users’ devices and data to cyberattacks or physical tampering. This can compromise users’ safety and functionality of their devices. Cars and baby monitors, e.g., appear to be easy targets for hackers.

There have been initiatives already to tackle the possible security risks inherent in ambient computing. Relevant data security laws generally focus on data protection, cybersecurity, cross-border data transfers, the rights of the data subject, and on penalties for non-compliance.

Liability and accountability

The other two aspects are legal liability and accountability: Ambient computing involves delegating some decisions and actions to autonomous agents or systems that may not be fully transparent or predictable. This raises questions about who is responsible and liable for the outcomes or consequences of those decisions or actions, especially when they cause harm or damage to others. (In a previous article, we looked at robot law and looked at who would be responsible for a robot’s actions: is it the robot, the owner, or the manufacturer?)

As we are dealing with new technologies that are literally all around us, legal liability and accountability in ambient computing are complex issues.

What are the benefits of ambient computing for lawyers?

In our previous article, we highlighted some general benefits of ambient computing. These include convenience, efficiency, engagement, and empowerment. More specifically for lawyers, ambient computing can offer three groups of benefits.

A first set of benefits has to do with improving productivity and efficiency. Ambient computing technology can automate and streamline many routine tasks and processes that lawyers perform. Some law firm management software can already be voice controlled and work together with artificial assistants. (Our article on virtual legal assistants discusses this, too).

Ambient computing can also enhance client experience and satisfaction. It can enable lawyers to provide more personalized, responsive, and proactive service to their clients, by leveraging data and insights from various sources and devices.

Finally, ambient computing can open up new business models and opportunities. It can create new types of services, products, and platforms that leverage ambient intelligence and connectivity.

What are the challenges?

Ambient computing also poses some challenges and risks for lawyers, including the ones we already mentioned above when talking about ambient law.

When it comes to protecting data privacy and security, lawyers have a duty to protect the confidentiality and integrity of their clients’ data, as well as their own data. Therefore, they need to ensure that they comply with the applicable laws and regulations on data protection, such as the GDPR. They also must make sure their ambient technology complies with the ethical standards and best practices of their profession. Furthermore, they need to be aware of the potential threats and vulnerabilities that ambient computing introduces, such as data breaches, cyberattacks, unauthorized access, etc., and take appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate them.

For lawyers, too, there are aspects of legal liability and accountability. Ambient computing involves delegating some decisions and actions to autonomous agents or systems that may not be fully transparent or predictable. This raises questions about who is responsible and liable for the outcomes or consequences of those decisions or actions, especially when they cause harm or damage to others. Lawyers need to understand the legal implications and risks of using ambient computing in their practice or advising their clients on it. They also need to ensure that they have adequate contracts, policies, insurance, etc., to cover any potential liability or claims that may arise from ambient computing.

Finally, ambient computing may force lawyers to adapt to changing roles and skills. Ambient computing may disrupt or transform some aspects of the legal profession or industry, by creating new demands or expectations from clients or stakeholders. Lawyers need to be prepared to adapt to these changes and embrace new roles and skills that ambient computing requires or enables. For example, they may need to become more tech-savvy or data-driven, collaborate more with other professionals or disciplines, or specialize in new areas or domains related to ambient computing.


Ambient computing is an emerging trend that has significant implications for lawyers and the legal profession. Ambient computing can offer many benefits for lawyers who want to improve their practice and service delivery. However, it also poses some challenges and risks that lawyers need to address carefully. Lawyers who want to embrace ambient computing need to be aware of the legal and regulatory aspects of ambient computing in their jurisdiction or context. They also need to be proactive in learning and adopting the best practices and tools that ambient computing provides or demands.


Virtual Legal Assistants

In this article, we discuss virtual legal assistants (VLAs). We answer questions like, “What are virtual legal assistants?”, “What services do they offer?”, “What are the benefits of using virtual legal assistants?”, and “What are the limitations?”. We also have a look at some statistics.

What are virtual legal assistants?

When we read articles on virtual legal assistants, we discover that the term is used in different ways. Some definitions restrict it to physical persons who work remotely and to whom purely administrative tasks are outsourced. Most authors also include the work of (remote) paralegals, while others also include all the services offered by third-party (or alternative) legal service providers who may use AI-powered or technology-driven platforms like bots. So, in its widest sense, a virtual legal assistant is an assistant that remotely assists lawyers, law firms, and legal professionals with various tasks and processes. They typically work as subcontractors for the law firm.

What services do they offer?

Virtual legal assistants offer a wide range of services. They can streamline and facilitate client communications and interactions. E.g., they can answer frequently asked questions and provide updates on case status, while maintaining confidentiality and security. They can personalize client engagement. And if you work with VLA bots and/or with physical people in different locations, they can guarantee 24/7 availability and instant responses.

Virtual legal assistants can enhance legal research. They can help lawyers find relevant case law, statutes, regulations, and legal articles to support their arguments and build stronger cases. They provide instant access to legal knowledge.

VLAs can assist in drafting legal documents such as contracts, agreements, pleadings, and other legal correspondence, often by generating templates or suggesting content based on context. One area where VLA bots have been proven very useful is contract review. They can review contracts, highlight important clauses, identify potential risks, and ensure compliance with relevant laws.

Virtual legal assistants also contribute to facilitating and optimizing case management and workflow. They can organize and manage case-related information, deadlines, and tasks, streamlining the workflow for lawyers and legal teams. VLA bots can provide automated case updates.

Other areas where VLAs are useful include bookkeeping, billing, and time tracking. They can help lawyers track billable hours and manage invoicing for clients.

You can also hire a VLA for data entry.

There is the aspect of due diligence, as well. Virtual legal assistants can assist in conducting due diligence for mergers, acquisitions, or other transactions by analysing legal and financial data.

VLA bots are also useful for legal analytics. They can analyse large sets of legal data and provide insights into trends, patterns, and potential outcomes.

Finally, there is E-discovery. VLA bots can help with the process of identifying, collecting, and analysing electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation purposes.

Some statistics

There are plenty of interesting statistics available when it comes to virtual assistants. Here is a selection.

  • Virtual assistants can decrease operating costs by up to 78%.
  • Investing in virtual assistants cuts the attrition by 50%. (The attrition rate pertains to the number of people resigning from an organization over a period of time).
  • Virtual assistants increase productivity by 13%.
  • According to a survey by the American Bar Association, 26% of lawyers use virtual assistants or paralegals. The 2020 Legal Trends Report found that law firms only spend an average of 2.5 hours each day on billable work, which can be improved by delegating work to legal virtual assistants.
  • A study by the University of Oxford found that 23% of legal work can be automated by existing technology, and that virtual assistants can handle tasks such as document review, contract analysis, due diligence, and research.
  • A report by Deloitte estimated that 39% of legal jobs will be replaced by automation, and that virtual assistants will play a key role in enhancing productivity, efficiency, and accuracy.
  • A survey by LawGeex found that virtual assistants can review contracts faster and more accurately than human lawyers. The average accuracy rate for virtual assistants was 94%, compared to 85% for human lawyers. The average time for virtual assistants to review a contract was 26 seconds, compared to 92 minutes for human lawyers.
  • According to Gartner, by 2023, virtual legal assistants (VLAs) will field 25% of internal requests to legal departments at large enterprises, increasing operational capacity for in-house corporate teams.
  • A survey by Virtudesk found that 82% of business owners who hired virtual assistants reported increased productivity and efficiency, and 78% said they saved money on operational costs.

What are the benefits of using virtual legal assistants?

We listed the tasks virtual legal assistants can do above. By delegating these tasks to a virtual legal assistant, you can free up your time and focus on the core aspects of your practice, such as strategy, advocacy, and client relations. As such, they increase efficiency and productivity.

You can also reduce your overhead costs, as you only pay for the services you need, when you need them. You don’t have to worry about hiring, training, supervising, or providing benefits to an in-house staff member. In other words, they can also be a more cost-effective solution compared to hiring additional staff for administrative tasks. (Cf. the statistics quoted above).

A virtual legal assistant can also offer you flexibility and convenience, as they can work from anywhere and often at any time. You can access their services on demand, without being limited by office hours or location. You can also communicate with them through various channels, such as phone, email, chat, or video conferencing. VLA bots work 24/7.

There also is the access to technology aspect. AI virtual legal assistants can automate repetitive tasks. They can leverage advanced AI and technology and may provide access to powerful tools that may not be affordable or available to smaller law firms.

Virtual legal assistants increase accuracy. Especially AI-driven assistants can often perform tasks with a high level of accuracy and consistency, reducing the likelihood of human errors. (Cf. our article on when lawyers and robots compete).

Scalability is another benefit. Working with VLAs allow you to easily adapt to the changing needs of your law practice, whether it’s handling increased workloads during busy periods or scaling down during quieter times.

What are the limitations?

While virtual legal assistants can be valuable tools, they are not meant to replace human lawyers. Instead, they complement legal professionals by enhancing their productivity and efficiency. It’s essential to consider the specific needs of the law practice and the capabilities of the virtual legal assistant platform before making a choice. They are meant to assist lawyers, not replace them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that at present most of the VLA bots are only available in English.


The use of virtual legal assistants is on the rise, and that should not come as a surprise. They boost efficiency, productivity, are cost-effective, and allow lawyers to focus on legal work.




Web3 for Lawyers

In this article, we have a look at Web 3 for lawyers. We answer questions like “What is Web3?” and “What are the promised benefits of Web3?”. We look at the concerns about Web3 and at how Web3 and the Metaverse relate to each other. We also pay attention at the relevance of Web3 for lawyers.

What is Web3?

Web 3 (web3, web 3.0) is the name used for what could be the next version of the Internet. Proponents claim it will be based on concepts like decentralization and blockchain technologies. The Wikipedia also includes the concept of token-based economics as a third pillar of web 3. (Think of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as an example of token-based economics. A future article will be dedicated to token-based economics. In the past, we have already published articles on blockchain and on how it is relevant for lawyers).

But why call it web3? To understand the name, we need to look at the history of the Internet. Before the Internet was accessible to the public in the form of the World Wide Web, there was ARPANET (sometimes referred to as DARPANET). Military strategists had come to the conclusion that centralizing strategic information on just one or some computer servers could leave one vulnerable. So, instead, they built a network of computers that were connected and that replicated crucial information. The information became decentralized. As long as one server remained up and running, essential information would remain accessible.

From this came the first incarnation of the public Internet, the world wide web, which was later also referred to as Web 1.0. It was the Internet of mainly static pages, where the users were in charge of the information they put online. In this setup, the information remained decentralized, where websites were on specific web servers. Then, slowly, we saw the rise of ‘Big Tech’. When social media arrived, they dramatically changed the Internet. Facebook, e.g., became like a privately owned Internet. In this new Internet, which people started referring to as Web 2.0, the information became centralized again in the hands of the Big Tech companies. Microsoft, Google (including YouTube), Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp), and Amazon, e.g., are responsible for most of the traffic on the Internet. These companies have tremendous amounts of information on their users, and that information is centralized on their servers. More importantly, users no longer exclusively own what they put on these social media. The Big Tech companies are in control and can use that information. One of the things they do, is monetize this information about their users for marketing purposes, where these users typically do not share in the profits.

With the arrival of cryptocurrencies, the idea of Web 3.0 was born. The purpose of cryptocurrencies was mainly to break away from the power of centralized financial institutions. Similarly, the idea for web3 was to decentralize information and to put users in charge again of their own information, while maintaining their privacy. This would be done by cutting out the Big Tech middlemen and by using the same blockchain technology that had made cryptocurrencies possible. The idea appealed and led to the creation of the Web3 Foundation.

What are the promised benefits of Web3?

By now, billions have already been invested in Web 3 and the underlying technologies. People are enthusiastic because the promises and benefits it holds. Let us have a look at those.

Web 3 will give control back to the users and let the users monetize their information instead of Big Tech. In the article in Livewire, Jeremy Laukkonen writes, “It will represent a transition from big companies controlling and monetizing content on the internet to individual creators and consumers sharing content and interacting through decentralized networks.” NFTs are an example of this, where the creator of a digital artwork is able to sell some rights to his digital artwork. This is done by assigning a unique digital token to the piece of artwork, and all transactions with regard to this token are registered in a Blockchain ledger.

Web 3 will offer increased privacy-protection

If the information is no longer shared with Big Tech companies, users are back in control over their personal data. If you make digital artwork and sell it as NFTs, e.g., the buyer does not need to know anything about you. They just need to know that the token that refers to it is authentic.


With decentralization, the information gets distributed over the Internet again, instead of being in the hands of a handful of Big Tech companies. Dion Hinchcliffe, in ZD Net, describes decentralization as, “the notion that instead of large sections of the Internet being owned and controlled by centralized entities, ownership is instead distributed among its builders and users.”

Technological innovation

The technologies that form the basis for Web 3 already have changed the landscape of Internet technologies. Blockchain is a prime example of that. Web 3 comes with its own set of challenges (see below), and for some of those innovative technological solutions are being proposed. These include solutions to make the Internet more environmentally friendly and sustainable energy-wise. The link between web 3 and the Metaverse also is responsible for the innovations in visual communications, network speed, etc.

Opportunities for enterprises

Commentators identify seven key areas in which Web 3 creates new opportunities for enterprises:

  1. The Metaverse is often cited as an implementation of Web3 technologies, where all its virtual marketplaces rely on them.
  2. Distributed (or Decentralized) Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). “The concept of a DAO is embodied in a smart contract, with the rules posted for all to see. Tokens are issued, and stakeholders have a well-defined decision-making process. Essentially a new type of digital corporation, DAOs can be used in an enterprise context for everything from open innovation and investment to IP-based professional services or industry-scale consortiums.” (Dion Hinchcliffe).
  3. Web3 Apps
  4. Creator Economy for Web3
  5. Crypto & Digital Assets
  6. Blockchain and Distributed Ledger (DLT)
  7. Decentralization

(For more information on this, see the article on ZD Net listed below in the sources, on how decentralization and Web3 will impact the enterprise).

Other benefits

Some advocates of Web 3 also claim it will bring increased data security (because of encryption by default) and increased scalability.

Concerns about Web3

While many people are enthusiastic about the idea of Web 3, there also are some concerns that still must be addressed. A short overview:


As most countries by now have Internet-related legislation, the current Internet is largely regulated. That is not the case with web 3, which makes it extremely attractive to cybercriminals. In an environment that is not regulated, the risks of getting exposed to hacking, fraud, theft, harassment and bullying, the dissemination of harmful content like child abuse, unfair business practices, etc., are substantial. An unregulated Web3 is a paradise for criminals.

Environmental Impact

One of the biggest concerns about blockchain technology is its impact on the environment. Blockchain technology requires constant complex calculations that require an exorbitant amount of computing power, which in turn requires a lot of energy. An entire Internet running on Blockchain technology would have a detrimental impact on the environment. Thankfully, new technologies are already being developed that still use the idea of distributed, encrypted ledgers but that require far less computer power. Etherium, e.g., has just moved to such a new technology.


One of the advantages of a centralized network is that typically more attention is being paid to security. (That is why cloud-based solutions typically are safer than technologies that are run on site). In a decentralized Internet, the users become responsible again for security. And that can be problematic. Experience has taught that users still are the most fallible factor in any security solution. (At the moment of writing this article, a hacker made headlines after successfully hacking the Uber network. All he had to was to make one authorized user believe that he was a colleague who needed access).

In a decentralized setup, all the information is in the hands of the users again. Identity theft and identity fraud will be as rampant as it is today, and probably with worse effects for the users whose identities were compromised. In fact, a recent report confirmed that social engineering attacks are already dominating the Metaverse and Web 3.

And there is more. The Pentagon also investigated blockchain technology to see if it could be useful for them. Instead, their investigation found some concerning vulnerabilities on blockchain. Their report revealed that blockchain is neither decentralized nor updated. The market that uses blockchain registered transactions only has a handful of players and it is through them that most transactions take place. On top of that, the report found that it can take a long time for certain transactions to register. That leaves the possibility open for a cybercriminal to, e.g., make a blockchain purchase and then keep on selling the same item several times to different people for as long as the transactions aren’t registered.

Negative impact on innovation

Technological innovation is being touted as one of the benefits of Web 3. But there is another side to the coin. Research has shown that decentralization tends to slow down innovation and progress because it hampers technological standardization. It’s the traditional ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ problem. E-mail is a classic example of decentralization. After 3 decades of the world wide web, there still are no standards for e-mail encryption. If you look at something like WhatsApp or Teams, which are centralized technologies, they had secure encryption by default, shortly after they were launched.

This slowing down of innovation is one of the main reasons many Big Tech companies are revising their position on working from home.

Other controversies

Several high-profile people within Big Tech are warning that Web 3 is more of a hype or marketing buzz than reality. More importantly, they point out that there won’t be much decentralization, as at present the investments in Web 3 start-ups are all being made by a small group of investment bankers. Instead of control over the Internet being centralized in the hands of just a few Big Tech companies, control over Web 3 would be in the hands of a small group of investors and venture capitalists.

Web 3 and the Metaverse

Web3 and the Metaverse are often mentioned in the same breath. Yet, they are not the same thing. The Metaverse has to do with immersive digital worlds that are typically experienced as a virtual or enhanced reality. Web3 has to do with new technologies and concepts like decentralization and token-based economics. There is a considerable overlap, of course: virtual marketplaces that are part of the Metaverse rely heavily on web3 technologies. But one of the main differences is who the proponents of each are. The Metaverse is being promoted by Big Tech companies who see it as a way of maintaining their control, while Web3 is being promoted by investors and venture capitalists who want to cash in on our digital lives.

The relevance of web3 for lawyers

A recent conference in Austin, Texas, concluded there are nine areas where web 3 and web 3 technologies are already relevant for lawyers.

  1. Copyright laws regarding non-fungible tokens, or NFTs
  2. virtual real estate – lease or buy
  3. virtual event planning
  4. cryptocurrency theft
  5. NFT due diligence
  6. prosecuting crimes in the metaverse
  7. starting or ending a business in the metaverse
  8. metaverse marriage and divorce
  9. web3 skip-tracing / due diligence

It is worth pointing out that there already is a need for blockchain and cryptocurrency lawyers, where the demand outweighs the offer. It should also be clear that having knowledge about Web3 and the Metaverse gives lawyers a competitive advantage.