The next generation of legal professionals is entering a vastly different landscape than those from even a decade ago.
Now, organisations that aren’t digital-first are being left behind. Automation is accelerating productivity gains. While the rise of NewLaw has redefined what it means to practise law.
That’s a lot to navigate – for new and experienced lawyers alike.
We spoke to Terri Mottershead, Executive Director at the Centre for Legal Innovation, to make sense of what’s next.
The business and practice of law aren’t what they used to be
“The business of law has transformed from paper-based, human-intensive operations to automated and tech-augmented processes,” says Terri.
Instead of spending hours scouring through page after page to find specific details on a matter, machine learning algorithms can do the work for you. Faster and more accurately. While cloud-based services have ushered in a new era of connectivity and collaboration.
And what’s in store for the actual practice of law?
“Before, firms brought people to the law. Now they bring the law to the people. Services are centred around client-led customisation and convenience. So as a legal practitioner, you need to be laser-focused on delivering outcomes that clients understand, can use and value.”
The rise (and rise) of NewLaw
The adoption of NewLaw processes accelerated during the pandemic – and the trend shows no sign of slowing down now.
But what, exactly, is NewLaw?
As Terri explains, “NewLaw practices are client-centred, tech-fuelled, data-driven and digital-first.
“They champion values like employee wellbeing, social responsibility, flexibility, transparency, innovation, experimentation, continuous improvement and agility.”
These firms know that delivering high-calibre services requires multidisciplinary teams – unimpeded by hierarchy – working closely with clients on a shared mission.
They understand the complexity of contemporary legal practice. So they measure value in terms of client outputs and outcomes delivered, rather than billable hours accrued.
What areas are shifting?
As menial tasks become streamlined through digitisation and algorithms, higher-level legal problem-solving skills will become increasingly sought after.
This presents opportunities for legal professionals to branch out – using your expertise to excel in new areas. Like cybersecurity, healthcare, fintech, ESG and beyond.
Looking ahead, the future of law will continue to be driven by today’s trends, including:
Client-centred experiences: With the rise of self-service platforms in other industries – like banking, entertainment and health – clients now expect the accessibility of user-centric design as standard. And they will gravitate toward firms that deliver exceptional services, informed by robust analytics.
Diversified legal teams: Partner, paralegal, solicitor – and chatbot. Now, automated solutions are another indispensable member of your team. Likewise, teams will become even more multidisciplinary – collaborating with data analysts and operational specialists – with each expert bringing fresh skills and insights.
Integrated technology: Repetitive processes will be streamlined – reducing risks, improving efficiencies and freeing your teams to focus on high-value work. While broad software solutions that connect with existing systems will be favoured over niche legal programs.
How can you prepare? Do your research and embrace change.
“If you’re entering the industry, get up to speed with what’s changing. Speak to people who are in the know. Go beyond buzzwords to learn about the ramifications in day-to-day legal practice.”
So, connect with innovative practitioners who are navigating these changes. Look for opportunities to engage in:
Your free membership gives you access to meetups, a private LinkedIn group, industry insights and more. Plus, you can join the Young Legalpreneurs special interest group to network and upskill in in-demand areas.
And how can seasoned legal professionals adapt?
“Keep your finger on the pulse and know what areas are changing. What are the impacts and the opportunities?
“For legal leaders, it’s crucial that you become a collaborator for change. That’s how you’ll lead your organisation forward and bring everyone with you, so your organisation and your people can adapt, with agility for a new legal future.”