With the increasing prominence of technology across all sectors, the way in which law firms operate and train junior lawyers will inevitably change.
I was with a client a few months ago and we discussed the merits of automation and augmentation in the legal sector. He suggested that technology change within the industry was all well and good, but that one impact was junior lawyers would no longer have the opportunity to perform the legal leg work and many duties which have traditionally formed the foundation for training within the industry.
I took the lawyer’s point on board, and can certainly understand the intention to provide rigorous training that ensures the highest standards of legal work. But I had to wonder if this outlook didn’t miss the point a little when it comes to the undeniable shift that’s underway.
Terms like ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘blockchain’ seem to be used at increasing frequency to fuel hype. It is easy to dismiss technology trends altogether as either overstated or issues for the next generation to resolve – a concern for further down the line rather than one we should use precious time worrying about today.
However, even if some of these ideas may appear intangible and abstract, they do reflect a broader picture of change which should not be ignored. Major forces like rapidly advancing technologies, shifting client expectations, the new generational composition of your workforce, and an increasingly globalised business landscape are all changing the way people in every industry work. The legal sector is certainly no exception.
Technology and the changing method of law practice
The job that people hire lawyers to do, and the service they expect to receive from a firm, is going to look very different before too long. For example, when searches can be automated and proofreading can be performed by a computer, allocating the time of a solicitor to such tasks is not going to constitute good service, or good business practice for that matter.
That would be like charging a customer for postage to send a letter, when in fact correspondence could have been achieved faster and more easily via email, and the client would actually prefer to receive communication electronically.
When a better way exists, it should be used. It’s only a matter of time and perspectives catching up to technology before the ‘old way’ starts to look ridiculous.
And do you really need somebody to spend three years proofreading, practising how to perform a Land Registry search and trawling through company records in order to become an effective lawyer?
Would it not be of greater benefit to the lawyer, the firm and clients to put the human brain to work on the more complex, nuanced tasks that add value immediately, and leave the repetitive tasks to computers?
People in all sectors talk about ‘digital natives’, those more technologically savvy as a result of growing up in an interconnected, digitised world. While there is no doubt that growing up with a smartphone in your hands from a young age will increase your familiarity with (and probably inclination to use) those devices, I strongly believe that knowledge and enthusiasm for embracing the benefits that technology present is a mindset, not an age bracket.
Bringing customer focus, strategic thinking and innovation to the team, Alex Ford is responsible for driving growth and raising awareness of Encompass. Previously, Alex was Marketing & Innovation Manager for the Institute of Executive Coaching & Leadership in Sydney and Hong Kong, and prior to that marketed software company The Distillery. She holds degrees in Japanese and Marketing, as well as Digital Marketing qualifications from ADMA and Product Marketing from UC Berkeley.
Founded in 2011 by entrepreneurs Roger Carson and Wayne Johnson, and operating from the UK, encompass is the creator of unique, innovative Know Your Customer (KYC) software for banking, finance, legal and accountancy that enable better, faster commercial decisions. The company is driven by the belief that the best decisions are made when people understand the full picture.
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