New Law, disruption, legaltech – these buzzwords herald a shift in how the legal profession sees itself, innovations in technology drive down costs and clients demand more for less.
There’s good news however, the doom and gloom around robots coming for the jobs of lawyers is largely unfounded. A recent survey by the Law Society of England & Wales suggested that AI’s impact to the number of legal jobs is minimal – less than 1% – with legal staffing having already peaked in 2009.
Artificial Lawyer has predicted further growth in demand for legal services, particularly among larger commercial enterprises, with AI set to serve the often underserviced consumer legal market.
Do robots dream of electric lawyers?
With the market for legal services set to grow, we can rest assured robots are not coming for our jobs. However, major shifts in technology will demand a vastly different kind of lawyer – equipped with a broader, more human-centric skillset. As technology increasingly assumes the dull, repetitive aspects of legal work, the lawyer of the future needs to do what robots can’t – be more human.
What are the skills of the future lawyer?
Gone are the days of lawyers memorising hundred page judgements or perfecting total recall of legislation. Just as many law schools have done away with closed book exams, mastery of core legal knowledge sits as a skill alongside an array of more business-oriented, client-focussed skills. Technology allows lawyers to swiftly search and analyse law; its next iteration will allow simple legal problems to be resolved – with services like Allira and Get Free Legal Advice (NZ) allowing for a functionality akin to ‘Siri for law.’
So what skills will future lawyers need to possess to remain relevant?
Emotional intelligence/ empathy
Law has always been about more than the technical work of applying law to a client’s matter. Understanding what a client wants and requires, and acting effectively in the best interests of a client necessitates a nuanced view of human motivations. This is particularly true in emotionally-charged areas of practice such as family law, but mastery of cultural mores is equally important in a commercial context so lawyers can deliver services clients find valuable.
Business acumen to better advice commercial clients
Repositioning the lawyer’s role as more of a consigliere with an intimate understanding of the client’s business goals, politics and challenges is essential to ensuring ongoing legal work is seen as relevant and valuable. Lawyers acting as trusted advisors, as opposed to ‘firefighter’ lawyers used only in case of legal emergencies, are far more valuable to clients – intimate knowledge of a client’s business allows them to proactively address potential legal risks long before they become costly and complex.
Networking and business development
Technology is now automating much of the mundane legal work long the bane of lawyers, especially junior lawyers. As a result, the future lawyer will be encouraged to skill up in business development much earlier in their careers. Relationships with clients, current and new, will emerge as the future lawyer’s major asset.
Tech-savvy early adopters
Lawyers are often seen as luddites. The profession is a latecomer to digital disruption; some lawyers still insist on printing all correspondence. In terms of technology, however, resistance is increasingly futile – the future lawyer is a tech-savvy early adopter, open-minded and eager to embrace ways technology can make their work more efficient. Firms who fail to consistently update technology to optimise workflow risk being left behind – and priced out of the market by more efficient competitors.
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