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As Legal Tech Advances, how is the Role of the Lawyer Changing?

Competition has characterised the nature of the legal market in recent years with emerging key players leading to a growing choice of legal providers. As such, efficiency is now key when considering the value of legal services to clients. Technology has been at the forefront of ensuring that law firms cut costs and, as a result, the role of the lawyer is quickly changing. As a result of the innovations and inventions in legal tech, the lawyers' responsibilities are shifting from more traditional functions of legal knowledge to a more comprehensive skill set including an entrepreneurial mindset, emotional intelligence and data analytics. Furthermore, examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain as well as other task automation software can help us further understand the changing role of the lawyer.

That legal knowledge and skills had previously formed the “traditional lawyer” helps to understand how the profession is changing. Good analytical skills, a strong ability to read and write as well as forming compelling arguments all remain crucial abilities for successful lawyers. Nevertheless, in a more technologically advanced, post-financial crisis world, these skills have formed the mere foundation, with the added necessity of skills - such as an entrepreneurial mindset, now at the forefront. With increasing client demands for similar fees, there is emerging pressure for a greater value of legal work. This is reliant on increasing innovation and ensuring that modern-day lawyers understand the value of technology. An example of this is AI on platforms such as LEXIS NEXIS where machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) are used to provide an advanced legal research platform, ensuring lawyers can do higher-value work. The business of law then proves key to surviving in a competitive climate. A lawyer who can visualise how technology increases efficiency and, in turn, enhance the value of their work for the client, is a lawyer who will remain successful in a technologically advanced world.

Secondly, given the rise of AI and Blockchain, emotional intelligence will consume a larger share of their skills. Lucy Bassli states in her book The Simple Guide to Legal Innovation:

“Ironically, legal technology has come to mean that people – not technology- are a firm’s biggest asset”.

Given the increasing power held by clients, due to a widening of options for legal services, lawyers will be valued on how they relate to their client’s issues and how deeply they can understand their goals. Ultimately, these include the ability to strategise and offer compassion, which is arguably not attainable through technologies. Although not complete, the use of Blockchain in Smart Contracts for dispute resolution cases demonstrates how technology can complete previously time-consuming legal work. Emotional intelligence skills such as self-awareness and social acumen will prove increasingly important in distinguishing a legal provider against competitors and allow lawyers to become trusted advisors in a technologically advancing world.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, being tech-savvy will form the basis of a future lawyer. The ability to utilise data will ensure that efficiency is maximised, leading to the highest value of service to their clients. Data analytics can be defined as the collection and the utilisation of data to gain insights into real-world processes with the ability to then, in turn, make predictions on outcomes. In many ways, the collection of data is perhaps a fundamental enabler of being able to leverage automation and potential AI. This is because future inventions and innovations will almost certainly require personalised data to run effectively. Therefore, in order to offer clients statistical evidence on the strengths of your legal service, those with the most extensive and up-to-date data will remain the most competitive. Previously subjective areas, such as asking lawyers to determine whether to litigate or settle, are now shifting into an objective area given the ability for past precedents to produce data-driven decisions. When confronted with issues of efficiency and high costs, data-driven automation will prove key to ensuring lawyers are focusing on high-value work.

Ultimately, lawyers have witnessed a monumental shift in their roles. Current partners are witnessing trainees completing work that is now a far cry from the administrative photocopying they were left to do before current technological advances. Nevertheless, the legal industry has been comparatively slow to adopt automation and in the next few decades will see competition forcing the industry to adapt and innovate in order to stay competitive. As a result, lawyers’ work will shift. As legal tech is able to complete high-cost work which is time-consuming, skills of data analytics, entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence will emerge as the key attributes to a successful modern-day lawyer.


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