How Lawyers Can Stay Relevant in the Automated World

Robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence are significantly affecting the legal profession

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Robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to significantly impact the legal profession, and professionals will need to adapt to and embrace these new technologies to future-proof their careers.

A Deloitte study states 100,000 legal roles would be automated by 2036 and a recent Forbes article went on to outline firms that are already offering cost-effective technology solutions, which make legal professionals, individuals and business folks’ lives easier.

Some tools in the AI space make contract review much quicker, with less human errors. A US legal firm is using AI to provide couples with an online self-guided divorce for a fraction of the cost.

Some of the new technology removes the need for lawyers to perform the process-driven and repetitive tasks, like drafting and checking documents, and allows them to focus on more strategic and high impact activities for their clients. However, what does this mean in reality and how do lawyers prepare and future-proof their careers? Also, what does this mean for the next generation of lawyers coming into the profession?

Here’s what seems to be the most important for the future of a legal professional.

More than Just a Lawyer

Private businesses and law firms say they need lawyers with the following skills: critical thinking, business development, sales and marketing, influencing skills, business acumen, emotional intelligence, project management, and problem-solving capabilities.

Just because someone is a well-regarded legal professional does not mean they will necessarily be able to provide their clients with the advice and skills they need in the future. Clients want more than just an interpretation of legislation or a contract drafted. They want to engage and work with expert lawyers who have a deep understanding of their business environment, who understand the challenges and risks the business deals with and be able to guide the business to make better and faster decisions. 

Practising greater agility and leaping up to build leadership, negotiation, teamwork and collaboration skills, and most importantly, business skills is key. It is important to identify your skill gaps and put a plan in place to constantly evolve. In 10 years’ time you’ll be pleased you stepped out of your comfort zone– which can be all too easy to stay in–in the legal profession.

The Lawyer-to-Leader Shift

In the US, both Harvard and Georgetown universities have recognized the widening training gap holding lawyers back and how many graduates are left at the mercy of a precarious job future. These universities, among many others, now offer significant training in business skills and most importantly they highlight the importance of learning business skills from the get-go as well as encouraging the creation of a cohort of lifelong learners.

It is important to never be confined by your title. Any job that is repetitive, mundane and that relies heavily on algorithmic and reproducible processes will eventually disappear.

Learn, absorb, go back to university and join new associations, both within the profession and outside, to gain a broader business perspective.

Make sure you’re always thinking of your next move and what training, connections or job moves you need to get there.

As a legal professional you’re trained to think 10 steps ahead. Just don’t forget to do this when it comes to your career.