Metasoftware: Building Blocks for Legal Technology
Seattle Journal of Technology, Environmental & Innovation Law, Volume 12 Issue 2 Issue 2
43 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2021 Last revised: 2 Jun 2022
Date Written: May 26, 2022
This Article develops a novel concept in information technology called metasoftware. It then applies the concept of metasoftware to developing legal technology.
Metasoftware enables users to create the software of their choosing and stands in sharp contrast to traditional, functional software that is intended for a particular purpose or a defined range of tasks. Functional software is the default type of software that is currently produced and includes word processing, email, social networking, enterprise resource management, online marketplaces, and video game software. Metasoftware, by contrast, is not functional. Metasoftware presents the user with a blank slate upon which to build functional software.
I argue that software is metasoftware to that extent that (1) it enables users to build user interface elements, workflow logic, and perform database operations, (2) provides connectivity with external data and software systems, and (3) is able to be stored and run independently from the platform that is used to build the software. In its purest form, metasoftware enables its users to build any functional software (given the existing state of technology), integrate with all open software platforms, and be hosted and run in the environment of the user’s choosing without being bound to a particular vendor or other proprietary software platform.
My identification of metasoftware contributes to the academic literature on information systems (and technology). Metasoftware is a hitherto unrecognized category of software for analysis in terms of several foundational lines of information technology research including user acceptance and usage, diffusion within an organization, and impact on organizational innovation and success (e.g., business performance).
I analyze three types of metasoftware platforms to determine how metasoftware characteristics are implemented in each and important inherent tradeoffs. These platforms are those closely tied to major producers of cloud-based software platforms, standalone proprietary “no code” software builder platforms, and open source visual development platforms.
This Article also describes how metasoftware platforms can be used to build functional legal technology and analyzes how the tradeoffs between different types of metasoftware platforms turn impact how each type of platform should be approached as building blocks for legaltech software. I focus on four major categories of legaltech as illustrative of the potential for metasoftware to build functional software: legal research, legal matter management, contract automation, and a variety of applications of artificial intelligence.
Keywords: legal technology, no code, software
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