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Are You a Future-Ready Lawyer?

14 September 2022

Author: Anssi Laakkonen

Future lawyers are multiskilled. They face further ability requirements due to more complex cases. The evolving nature of the skillset expected of a young legal professional does, however, give law firm applicants an opportunity to stand out in interviews. If you can demonstrate that your legal knowledge is complemented by supporting skills that are useful, if not vital, in tomorrow’s legal landscape, you have an early advantage which could yield benefits in seeking employment. These skills include technological competence, project management, legal design, creativity, and proactivity. Many of these modern skills are unfortunately not offered by law schools and law students may find it beneficial to enhance these skills outside of the traditional curriculum. This text provides information on new skills appreciated by law firms and give law students advice on how to develop them.

Changing Legal World — What Is Required from a Legal Professional?

As the legal business evolves, the collection of abilities required evolves as well. Tomorrow’s lawyers have to be more adaptive to a fast-changing business environment than before and because of this will need to possess a diverse skillset. To combat this complexity, the adoption of legal technology services (“legal tech”) is seen as a way of helping legal professionals be more effective in their work and taking legal service offerings to the next level.

As of March 2022, forty US states require lawyers to maintain a competence in relevant technology. Some UK law firms have started to offer graduate schemes in legal operations with a focus on legal tech, process design, and legal project management. As another indication of the ongoing evolution, Gartner predicts that legal departments will increase legal tech spending by 200% between 2020 and 2025.

Technological development can already be seen in the use of electronic signatures, automated contracts, and collaboration sites. The growing need for faster and cheaper services is likely to further accelerate the movement into technology adoption in the legal profession. To ensure that new technology is used in ways that can actually benefit lawyers’ work, lawyers will need to have an active role in the legal tech adoption process. Because of this, lawyers familiar with and open to legal tech are sought after. Client demand for new kinds of services will mean that knowledge of the legal design is also valuable.

The Karnov Group highlighted in their 2021 report that, as general traits, creativity and proactivity will be in high demand as lawyers will be acting in an ever faster changing environment. They also noted that in the public sector and corporate law departments, cross-discipline expertise will be one of the key factors in excelling in the field while in law firms, deeper specialisation will be sought after in response to growing legal complexity in addition to cross-discipline proficiency. The more complex cases and increasing cross-discipline co-operation will mean that project management will also increase in importance making it a valuable commodity for lawyers at law firms.

How Can You Develop These New Skills?

First of all, law students should make the most of their university’s offering.

  • University of Turku offers a course on managing legal operations in creative and digital industries; for more information please check here.
  • University of Helsinki offers a course on legal design; for more information please check here.

As the course offering in universities is currently quite limited on these subjects, students should take initiative and search for other avenues in training these skills. A variety of education is available on legal tech and legal operations. Below are a few examples of the ways in which to boost your skillset.

  • Legal Tech Essentials 2022 is a free lecture series containing great insight on the current outlook of the legal market including legal tech, legal operations, and legal innovation. The program is offered jointly by Bucerius Law School’s Center for Legal Technology and Data Science, Singapore Management University’s Centre for Computational Law at the Yong Pung How School of Law, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology. The program starts on the 10th of November and you can sign up for free here.
  • Coursera offers free courses on Legal Tech and the Digital Transformation of Law (Universidad Austral) and AI & Law (Lund University). 
  • For more information on legal operations, please visit CLOC’s page here.
  • Artificial Lawyer hosts a guide of available legal tech education in universities around the world.

In addition, many legal tech vendors provide free webinars on themes such as document automation and eDiscovery platforms. While they are biased towards their own products, the presentations still provide useful insights on how technology can be used.

You can also find and follow relevant hashtags like #legaltech and the topic specialists in social media to keep up with the development of the field. An ability to apply law remains as valued as ever but complementary skills can set you apart.

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