Over the last few years, the legal profession has genuinely started to embrace legal tech and we are now making rapid progress changing the way we operate; from documentation management, discovery, content management systems to legal project management, legal tech is significantly changing the face and the future of legal services, especially for in-house legal teams.
What we also need to consider is how tech will have an impact on the skills required by lawyers. The likelihood is that firstly, tech will create greater efficiencies which may impact on the need for lawyers at all levels of the legal value pyramid. However, in terms of skill set we need to consider the following two points:
1. How do we train the next generation of lawyers? We have historically trained via a mentoring/shadowing system. However, reviewing documents, managing documents and even drafting are no longer required on the same scale as 20 years ago. What we need to consider is not only the skills the next generation need (see below), but does it still make sense for us to have the 2 year training contract scheme. The number of training contracts available will most likely decrease but also most trainee lawyers would also spend their time undertaking work at the junior end, which as mentioned above will be unlikely to exist. One option is of course to become more like the US system, where you become a lawyer after as a series of exams and no training contracts are required at all?
2. What skills do lawyers need? Knowing the law is just a Google search away and with AI emerging, researching and interpreting the law is becoming less of a focus. What is becoming a fundamental part of a lawyers skill set is how any law is implemented into practice and how projects are managed. For in-house teams, that is about how projects are managed, implemented and integrated within the business itself. Understanding and learning this skill set is essential, but it is a skill set that is learnt through practice, application and experience, not just picked up via mentoring/shadowing.
We are in a new and exciting era of legal services. Technology and greater efficiencies are coming to the legal profession. We need to make sure that our teams and especially the next generation are ready for the changes ahead.
Freeman from BBC Worldwide added: ‘If you want to be effective in-house, you cannot be reactive but proactive. You need to be perceived to be adding value, not just saying ‘no’ at the last minute. The role for lawyers is not different - we are doing the same things we were before, but in an increasingly complex environment. That has actually always been the case.’