Traditionally the skills for lawyers like attention to detail, organisation and time management may now be of less importance with legal tech fulfilling these tasks for you. Thus, the question has changed, no longer being what skills are needed in law but what skills are needed to fill the gaps left by technology.
How do you replace AI before it replaces you?
This may seem like a dramatic over-exaggeration of the importance and capabilities of legal tech, though law tech can fill many legal skill gaps. For example, Contract Companion provides proofreading and analysis of contract terms’ strength and Blockchain recording data and case progress, technology can fill gaps in lawyers’ skill sets by doing it for you. Hence, lawyers of the future need to develop new skills to become as irreplaceable as legal tech. These skills being, understanding the market and developments ( ie. keeping track of the tech developments whilst it’s keeping track of your data) knowing how to operate tech (it can’t replace you if you are operating it) and having strong interpersonal skills (though lawyers are often described as being like robots, they should be able to master human interaction better than one).
Understanding the market developments.
The economic climate is largely unpredictable. With events such as COVID-19, the US-China trade war and the oil price war sending the economy into turmoil, lawyers need to stay up to date with all of the minor business developments to be able to give the best advice possible to businesses and individuals. To do that you need to have as much information as possible. Getting used to regularly reading the news and business updates is crucial for lawyers, some great publications for this are the Economist and the Financial Times, because not even computers can predict these events.
Being able to harness technology.
Computing systems are rapidly developing with the move from paper-based offices of the past to entirely online systems, meaning that the technology that lawyers are using is more advanced than Microsoft Office. There are a few key skills that lawyers can learn to keep pace with the rapid technological advances such as coding, using social media platforms, utilising online workspaces and understanding encoding software. Coding is a great way to add innovation into the workspace, magic circle firms such as Slaughter and May, are providing coding courses to their lawyers which is illustrative of the importance of these skills to law firms. Besides, social media is becoming increasingly important for advertising, with firms such as Shoosmiths creating social media platforms with thousands of followers to recruit lawyers and advertise their services to potential clients. Hence, being able to operate Facebook and Instagram professionally is advantageous for future lawyers. Furthermore, online workspaces like Slack and Zoom are becoming an essential aspect of communication within law firms and with clients. Consequently, being able to successfully use these systems will enable you to communicate and interact effectively and not make the mistake that a boss made of turning themselves into a potato on a Teams call! Finally, understanding encoding technology, for example, Blockchain, which records digital use and payments to help law firms track data, will help young lawyers so that they are not held back by it and instead can use it to their advantage.
Possessing strong interpersonal skills.
Lawyers are the face of the firm; they come into contact with clients, judges, other lawyers and members of the public. Therefore, being able to communicate and network is crucial and is one thing that technology can’t do. It’s really important to be able to explain yourself effectively whether it’s to argue the case or to describe proceedings to a client. In this case, mums are right; it is not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Communication with clients can make an impression that causes them to stick with the firm for their future proceedings or makes them leave, never to return. With the increase in international firms on the market, it is vital that lawyers can communicate with colleagues from different countries and in different offices.
To sum up, future lawyers merely need to stay in touch with market changes, understand legal technology and to be good at working collegially to become a successful lawyer and avoid being replaced by AI.
Cerys Gunn, Third Year, Law with a Study Abroad Year.