• Aleksandra Nowicka

The Future of Legal Profession

source: bigstockphoto.com/DoroshinOleg

Responding to the demand signalized to me by readers, I would like to introduce you to the new series ‘Let’s talk about law’ where I and the amazing people who decide to collaborate with fromlawyerslife will publish their texts on different legal topics.

First post was written by me and elaborates on the future of legal profession. The topic of a great importance to all lawyers, despite the level of career they are on at the moment.

Law Firms need to adjust to changing world and factors which have a substantial impact on the economy such as demands of clients, the trend to provide more-for-less, the number and influence of new market competitors, swift development of technology, and the capability to provide a flexible service and approach.

Demand creates supply, therefore, firms have to mirror their clients’ needs. With changing economy and great scope of variety of sources, people look for being given a great quality service for less money. Thus, market competitors must look to solutions of how to offer more-for-less. They might change their own internal operations and sourcing strategies, for example by off-shoring (transferring work to less expensive countries) or quite popular in the UK near-shoring (transferring work to more affordable nearby jurisdictions). Sharp rise in competition requires new strategies of cost-cutting that might be implemented by many means, most of which are rather innovative as above mentioned, hence firms cannot deny that the legal market is changing, and as a consequence, they cannot be development-resistant.

Technology seems to be one of the most significant factors in last 20 years with a great impact on service market which has actually pushed many businesses to improve their operation systems. Law Firms must introduce increasingly capable systems, not only to make their work easier, but also to create easy-accessible system for clients. Many firms have already improved their systems, and introduced technological developments such as document automation. Going back to cutting costs, well-developed information systems are able to outperform junior staff, thus create a visible profits for the future. What is more, quite commonly used document automation systems seem to be more reliable and efficient than modestly experiences lawyers.

Many work systems are too complicated for their users, therefore, should be adjusted to clients’ needs in order to let them control the progress of their cases. Not to mention that traditional ways of providing system and used technologies (especially in cases when they are obsolete) are excessively time-consuming, and generate costs instead of cutting them. In the era of social urgency to find new ways of providing service, firms need to open themselves to new tech opportunities, such as more advanced Web-based systems similar to Cybersettle introduced in ‘90s.

The profession is constantly changing. Traditional black-letter lawyers are not fully adjusted to the new reality dominated by legaltech and entrepreneurial younger colleagues. Comprehension of the process of legal market transformation is especially important for young lawyers, those who want to yet enter the market in particular. Conventional lawyers will no longer shine, and they will be replaced by completely new legal jobs focusing on innovation, technology, and new ways of delivering service for less without any detriment as to the quality. According to Richard Susskind, in order to be successful in the future young law candidates should take a closer look at such professions (and set of skills linked to them) like legal knowledge engineer, legal process analyst, or legal management consultant. You can read on those and many more jobs of the future in the book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers. An Introduction to Your Future’.

Recent events, covid-19 outbreak in particular, showed that changes are not that difficult to implement. It is especially important in a dispute resolution area. Judicial system is rather stagnant and old-fashioned, however, in last few months few improvements have been introduced, what might constitute the beginning of new digital era, and even creation of fully online courts (e-courts). As a previous judicial assistant I have noticed that judiciary is rather reluctant to new technologies, whereas law firms are open to such changes stating that they will not only make their work easier but also facilitate the understanding of the whole judicial process to their clients.

I listened yesterday to the University of Cambridge’s webinar ‘Criminal Justice in a Pandemic: The courts’ and two points in particular caught my attention. First off, that it will even more difficult totally unprepared juries, and secondly, that online courts will lead to the transformation of barristers into pure solicitors. As to the first point, let me one more time emphasize that I am not (neither been or will be in the future) a fan of common law institution of jury. How come unprepared average citizens with no legal knowledge and experience (sometimes not even life experience) can hold the burden of deciding of someone’s guilt. It is just a ridiculous idea trying to show the society that it has something to say. There are less complicated areas than law that state can give them access to in order to make them happy. Of course, I do not say that all juries are not ‘fit for purpose’, however, sadly most of them are not ready to make justice (sic!). The second point as to barristers becoming solicitor, such point of view does not lack grounds. The main task put in front of barrister is to polish her demagogy skills and presence in court. Whereas, where most stages of the proceedings are online, and trials held virtually, there is no place to show off and show your long-improved skills. But does it mean that changes are detrimental? Improvement and tech advancement is beneficial in itself (despite all the disadvantages), and maybe it is proportionate to require legal professions to improve too, instead of being strictly attached to tradition without any flexibility.

What are your views on that? Do you believe the legal profession will change significantly in next five or ten years, or will it be constant?


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