The advancements in technology over the last two decades have brought about welcome changes in the legal profession Processes are more streamlined, less time is wasted on laboriously scribbling handwritten notes, dictating, and reviewing them. New platforms, apps, and tech tools mean that aspects of the job like disclosure and information are much less time-consuming than they used to be. Alongside this is the stuff we focus on at The Carvalho Consultancy – the need for lawyers to develop more honed emotional intelligence, the psychological and human skills required for success and effective relationships.
These two developments might seem contradictory at first – surely the tech developments will take away these human elements of the job? Some lawyers have been afraid that the tech advancements will leave them with not much left to do. Well no, that’s not quite the case.
What these developments mean is that, by sifting out some of the chaff, the lawyers are left to hone their skills in the more specialised areas of the job: skills of influence, persuasion, and creativity. Making the job more rewarding in the process.
So what are the key shifts that have taken place?
- Tech-savvy lawyers: The legal profession now demands a certain level of IT know-how. Us dinosaurs of old struggling with Excel spreadsheets are having to get on board. Lawyers need to be familiar with legal research software, e-discovery tools, case management systems, and other technology platforms relevant to their practice areas. There are examples from every field but, to take one close to my heart, Alan Larkin’s work at Family Law Partners has shown what can be done in the family law world. His Engage platform enables clients to put together their own information ahead of the first meeting and now the latest development, Nova, helps clients identify which is the right family law process for them when separating. And, often, across the legal profession, it’s actually the juniors in a team who find themselves explaining to the seniors what can be achieved with effective use of such tools.
- Adaptability: With the rapid pace of technological advancements, lawyers must be adaptable and open to learning new tools and systems. Sorry, lawyers but I don’t think we’re known for our adaptability (I speak from personal experience!). But today’s lawyer needs to be able to quickly grasp and integrate emerging technologies into their work processes, whether it’s using cloud-based platforms, collaborating remotely, or understanding the implications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
- Data Analysis and Privacy: The increased digitisation of legal documents and the availability of big data have created a need for lawyers who can analyse and interpret data effectively. Understanding data analytics and privacy laws has become crucial in areas such as e-discovery, intellectual property, and cybersecurity.
- Collaboration and Communication: Technology has enabled lawyers to collaborate and communicate more efficiently, both within their organisations and with clients. One thing that the pandemic laid bare is that lawyers desperately need to be trained in and develop their ability to communicate remotely, to supervise from afar, and to develop strong work cultures. These are tricky, tricky things to achieve but they’re doable. It’s also essential that lawyers speak in plain language with clients rather than the comfort blanket of legal concepts. Because how many complaints against lawyers have arisen due to earlier misunderstandings, clients misinterpreting what their lawyer was advising or being afraid to ask questions? (Answer: Many)The Family Law Language Project for example is really making waves in encouraging family lawyers to change the language they use so it’s less inflammatory and more understandable for clients and their children.
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Technology has disrupted traditional legal service delivery models, giving rise to legal startups, alternative legal service providers, and online platforms. Lawyers today need an entrepreneurial mindset to identify new opportunities, embrace innovation, and adapt their practices to stay competitive in a changing legal landscape. Ten years ago there were very few senior associates setting up their own firms. Now we see many bravely taking the plunge. Wanting to do things their own way – no longer needing the comfort of the large firm environment.
- Ethical Considerations: As technology continues to evolve, legal professionals must navigate the ethical challenges associated with new tools and data privacy concerns. Lawyers need to have a strong understanding of the ethical implications of technology, such as client confidentiality, data security, and the use of AI in decision-making processes.
Like I said at the start, these tech and human developments can sit nicely alongside each other. We lawyers need to evolve but I think the future is a happier profession – with lawyers being better equipped for the more human elements of the job, safe in the knowledge that technology is taking care of the processes.