By Siska Lund, originally published in Lawyers Weekly
The jury is in: the legal industry is in the early stages of a transformation that’s not only changing what legal services will entail, but also who will be delivering them. The question is, are we heading to a future where law happens without lawyers? And if so, what can existing lawyers do to future-proof their career?
The recent keynote address and panel discussion on ‘Law without Lawyers’ symposium at Bond University’s Centre for Professional Legal Education delivered some intriguing takeaways on the role of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) products that are behind some of the significant changes rewriting what legal services mean.
Proliferation of knowledge
AI products and online resources are opening the doors to legal knowledge and information, putting cheap and easy access to legal expertise into the hands of pretty much anyone.
For lawyers wanting to differentiate their services, it’s important to demonstrate that, while AI products and the proliferation of online information is an obvious solution to streamlining some tasks, it cannot replace depth of experience and knowledge when it comes to handling more complex and bespoke transactions.
In this information-saturated environment, lawyers need to stand out by showing clients that their experience and insights will mean better results, balanced with operational efficiency and affordability.
Alternative legal services
Many businesses are leveraging technology to provide legal information and documentation. At the helm of these ‘legal information’ businesses are technologists rather than lawyers.
They offer alternatives to conventional legal service, often without any lawyers. This kind of disruption is impacting the way lawyers offer their proposition to clients.
In the face of more competition from alternative legal services, lawyers will need to be effective communicators and bring a broader range of skills to the table, encompassing marketing, business development and finance – a point reinforced by this week’s ‘The Future of the Legal Profession’ report by the Law Society of Western Australia.
As organisations increasingly embed multi-disciplinary collaboration, lawyers with both business and legal expertise have a unique opportunity to be seen as a valuable business partner.
Increase of DIY
Do-it-yourself software and fill-in-the-blank legal documents are providing clients with cheap and convenient ways to address their legal needs without consulting a lawyer.
Whilst DIY legal products can work in some situations, lawyers must be able to demonstrate when it makes sense to use DIY as a cost-effective option, and when it makes more sense not to. In other words, it’s crucial that lawyers aren’t afraid to recommend a DIY for simple tasks, but can also identify how and where their legal service add value.
This comes down to being client-focused: Having responsive, tailored services, and bringing together the right team for the right advice for the right situations.
When clients can trust that their lawyers have their needs first and foremost in mind, the relationship shifts to that of a trusted advisor, not just a service provider.
It’s time to be both a business and profession
At its core, law is both a business service and a specialised profession. Successful lawyers and law firms of tomorrow will need to be able to balance both sides.
Given the needs of the new global, legal marketplace, to future-proof their career, lawyers must couple strong technical skills with creative problem solving, a business mindset, and an unswerving focus on their clients. The challenges of tomorrow call for even more collaboration and permeability between legal practice, business and education.
As lawyers, let’s make sure we earn our seat at the table.