Technology has transformed most sectors, even law. Now, many labour-intensive tasks can be automated, allowing legal practitioners to focus on higher-value work that demands their expertise. With fewer staff needed to wade through mountains of paperwork, it’s predicted that, by 2038, there could be 20% fewer legal services jobs. So what are the skills that lawyers of the future will bring to the table, as automation continues to evolve their roles and the wider sector? And how can firms demonstrate the value they provide to clients in a world of automated legal advice?
No sector will be immune from the advances AI and automation can bring. For a sector like law, new technology can change the way everyone works for the better. Labour-intensive and document-heavy tasks have always been a time-consuming sink of precious billable hours. Even worse, manual tasks are prone to human error – something the legal sector has little tolerance for.
A driver of digital transformation
Over the course of the pandemic, digital transformation accelerated across virtually all sectors. In the legal world, new software and tools were launched, demonstrating the transformative potential of automation. It has helped to speed up onerous tasks, allowing lawyers and their teams to focus more on sharing their valuable expertise.
With more and more firms adopting new technologies, it’s predicted that the global AI legal technology market will generate over $37 billion (£33 billion) by 2026. AI is expected to be one of the biggest drivers of change over the next decade. Some experts have gone as far as to say it’s “mission critical for any forward-thinking firm looking to drive profitability in a competitive post-pandemic market”.
Embraced from the top down
One key indicator that AI and automation is not a flash in the pan is that it is being wholeheartedly embraced by senior figures within firms. According to Forbes Insight’s “Human AI is Here”, 87% of senior executives feel that AI is important to achieving their objectives. And even in the face of financial struggles, a significant proportion would still prioritise investing in tech to make their firm more productive.
Speaking to the FT, Christina Blacklaws, Chair of the Lawtech UK Advisory Panel says the hysteria that “almost every legal job would be replaced by robots” has quietened down to something “much more realistic”. She said that younger lawyers and those who qualify in the future will expect technology and AI to be embedded in firms’ operating processes as a matter of course.
With C-suite and partner buy-in, AI and automation are here to stay. The next hurdle is understanding how this might change the legal sector and how it communicates the value it offers to clients.
Conveying the new face of legal services
It’s clear the lawyer of the future will need new skills to thrive. Although a shrinking workforce may set off alarm bells for some considering a career in legal services, AI is likely to create more opportunities than it removes. Instead of days sifting through paperwork, legal support staff will instead have opportunities to implement code and have more capacity to support solicitors on projects. Firms should highlight this as a benefit to prospective employees.
Meanwhile, law firms will need to be careful to show clients that adopting technology has not stripped them of their humanity. Skills that can’t be replaced by a computer will become more important in demonstrating value to clients, like strategic thinking, lived experience and emotional intelligence. For example, if a firm has award-winning lawyers or niche expertise, these features and the benefits they bring clients should be emphasised as points of differentiation in their marketing messages. It’s understandable that you might want to shout about your investment in digital transformation, but translating it to the benefits it brings will help you create more client-centric communications.
Communicating in a digital world
As the traditional role of a solicitor evolves, it’s important that firms make their expectations for the lawyers of the future clear. Communications will play a vital role in effective recruitment and upskilling of those who are keen to evolve as the sector does. Remember that your new recruits probably don’t care that much about the software they’ll be using on a daily basis as the adoption of law tech becomes the rule, not the exception. It’s a nice-to-know, but not as important as your strong professional development programme or wellbeing benefits.
Intentional copywriting will also stop your firm blending in with the sea of others who have adopted the same tech solutions. Yes, you use BI software and automate paperwork to eliminate human errors, but so will most firms worth their salt by the end of this decade. What else sets you apart from the crowd, that technology will never replace? And how is technology supporting and enabling your points of difference, rather than making law an amorphous, automated machine?
Copywriting with context
How you talk about your technology matters. AI and automation will facilitate a better experience for clients and lawyers and explaining those benefits clearly will be important for firms looking to get an edge. Automation means no more late nights drowning in paperwork. AI means less time scouring hardcovers for obscure statutes. And digital transformations have made the world of law more flexible and accessible than ever before. These are meaningful benefits that your clients and people will value.