May 22 2020

The new future of the legal profession (Part two)

Carsten A. Lexa

In the past, legal advice has been more or less offered the same way. But this is about to change, because of the changes brought about by digitization. To start a discussion, this article presents, in two parts, 10 prerequisites that future lawyers should have. While in the first part of this article (link), prerequisite from 1 to 5 look at the necessary mindset of lawyers in the new future, the second part focuses on processes and organizational aspects. Let’s start here from n.6.

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6. Knowledge of technical tools and resources
Lawyers who are at the forefront of technical developments are rare. Too quickly, they often judge that certain reasons speak against certain new processes, tools, software or technologies. However, the reluctance is often due to a lack of technological knowledge. What is possible and in particular why it is possible is often not understood. Future lawyers will have to increasingly deal with new technological tools and resources, be it to process mandates more efficiently, be it that processes are better understood or that clients can be better prepared for future challenges.

7. Thinking in standardized processes
Software will change the everyday work of lawyers. However, only a few lawyers can guess how much this will be the case. The signs have already been found on the wall. Legal tech startups create contracts, process car accidents or reimbursements when there are delays in air traffic. In addition, software is getting better and better when it comes to identifying errors in contract patterns. For future lawyers, this means that more and more attention needs to be paid to standardizing processes to work as efficiently as possible. This requires new thinking aimed at processing identical work steps as quickly and efficiently as possible.

8. New understanding of office organization
Everyone knows colleagues who have to "check their computer" to make an appointment or who have the documents "only available in their office". Future lawyers will have to rethink their law firm organization. Gone are the days when contact persons are only available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to make an appointment, documents are only available in paper form and files can only be viewed in the office - thanks to digitization. For future lawyers, the question is rather how chatbots and cloud services can and should be used and which tools are available when dealing with clients and their problems. Fast and constant availability - perhaps not concerning a specific lawyer, but certainly with regard to the law firm itself and in relation to the data and documents - will be requested by clients. And lawyers have to deliver. The tools already exist.

9. Knowledge of company management
Ultimately, a law firm is a service company. Because of this, lawyers will have to focus more on the elements of good company management. Lawyers who see themselves not only as specialists with an eye for the law but also as entrepreneurs will, for sure, have an advantage in the future.

10. Increased specialization
The training of lawyers in many countries is still aimed at creating lawyers with basic knowledge in all areas of the law. Legal issues, however, are becoming increasingly complex. Understanding new legal areas requires an effort that is regularly not in sufficient proportion to the income created from cases in these areas. Therefore, it makes more sense if future lawyers specialize without delay at the earliest possible time. Personal initiative will be required here. Clients understand better and better that a lawyer cannot know everything. It is now time for the lawyers to understand this too. This, in turn, will result in increased cooperation between lawyers in different areas of law. It will be necessary to have an overview of the interfaces between different legal areas, but also to know where the limits of one's knowledge are and to expand it by working with other lawyers.

From my personal perspective, these are the main requirements for the new future of the legal profession. Nobody knows exactly what the future will bring or look like. But I am certain that digitization will pose new challenges for lawyers. Knowledge of the law alone will not be sufficient to meet the client's requirements in the future. It will take more. Let the discussion begin ...

Article author:
Carsten A. Lexa

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