The legal profession –like most other professions– is staring down the muzzle of legaltech pointed at it by the tech innovation industry. Whether you like it or not, whether you want it to be or not; LegalTech is slowly but steadily changing the narrative about how things are and can be done in the profession. It’s high time someone examines its prospect for young lawyers, particularly.
LegalTech: What It Means
Still wondering what Legaltech means and refers to? You should head over to our previous article titled LegalTech: How It All Began, where this author examines the fundamentals of legaltech and its history. There, you’d understand legaltech to mean “technologies –soft and hard –that help attorneys attend to clients’ legal needs in a fast efficient manner…”.
LegalTech: The State Of Affairs
Now, there’s been an outpouring of goodwill and confidence about the prospects of legaltech. There have even been substantial investments in the acquisition of such tech by major law firms across the world. But the reality remains that its global adoption is still at its lowest levels with the Nigerian arm of the profession not coming close at all.
From personal experience, older and senior lawyers at the bar who’ve risen through the ranks to become gladiators, are not enthusiastic about legaltech. Obviously, there’s not much they stand to lose in the fight for survival since they’ve already made their mark and would continue profiting from it.
The same cannot be said of younger, junior lawyers who join the saturated profession in their droves annually. For them, LegalTech presents a formidable option for rapidly blooming into formidable, badass attorneys –either as solo practitioner or employees at established law firms.
Millennial Lawyers and Their Technophobism
It wouldn’t be over-reaching to conclude that 90% of young lawyers with under 5 years of practice in their portfolio, belong to the millennial generation. They are thus supposed to be conversant and comfortable with the usage of new technologies. But as recent data has shown, such supposition and presumption are rebuttable and untrue. In fact, they are amongst the most technophobic of young professionals.
At the recent Justitia Seminar in the Netherlands, a poll was taken to determine the frequency of legaltech usage by young lawyers. The results confirmed what was already suspected – lawyers, young and old, don’t use legaltech.
Aside from the usage of essential Microsoft packages like Word and perhaps Excel, 75% of the over 200+ young attendees used neither of the 4 most prominent legaltech products on the market –e-Signing, Contract Automation, Matter Analytics, and Doc Review.
Picture it. If this is the case in a tech-advanced jurisdiction such as the Netherlands, one can only imagine the ebb of the stats in tech-apathetic jurisdictions like Nigeria.
Perhaps, this trend subsists because young lawyers fail to realise how legaltech adoption can catapult them to the top of the pile –which is exactly what this piece seeks to address. If you follow through, you’d gain clarity on the prospects of legal tech for young lawyers.
LegalTech: Career Advancement Prospects for Young Lawyers
Just maybe if young lawyers with solo legal practice or those in the employ of top-tier firms, understand how quickly and rapidly legaltech can help them rise from oblivion to prominence on the strength of consistent delivery of client satisfaction, they’d take its adoption seriously.
Fast-Tracking of Professional Intuition Development
As with all fields, years of doing whatever you do comes with the evolution of a professional gut feeling, instinct, or intuition. Professional intuition is what facilitates the presentation of fast, on-the-spot assessment and solution to a client’s legal problem. A seasoned, experienced practitioner who knows his onions, has a reasonable foresight of how a legal matter would turn out. The intuition to do so only comes after years of honing and toning in real practice –something which fresh out-of-law-school graduates can’t reasonably be expected to have –it is inconsequential whether such graduated with a First Class or Second Class Upper. But clients don’t want to know that, or do they?
Abdi Aidid, a former New York Litigator puts it, “As a young lawyer, one of the biggest challenge was being expected to perform like an experienced lawyer right away…most of my day was spent reading cases to figure out relevant factors. I didn’t have a lot of time to think creatively about our client’s case”.
With legaltech however, young lawyers can get a quick headstart on the honing of a professional intuition that gives experienced lawyers that special edge. Most legaltech tools you’d encounter on the market today are built to enhance foresight development. Young lawyers can input the facts of a case in these tools to test, validate their solutions to clients’ legal problems. For instance, a first-year associate using the Law Pavilion Prime can cut through judicial precedents to arrive at the most important principles and factors that are of weighty substance in real practice, as pronounced in the dictum of judges. With this tool and an array of others, young attorneys can consistently churn out fully-formed, workable ideas and solutions, rather than half-baked, fallible ones.
Solo, young lawyers can also take advantage of this tool to cut down on mistakes and response time to client needs. It’s not uncommon to see young lawyers go to seniors for advice on how to make a head start in cases. But with tools such as Law Pavilion Prime, for example, a young attorney can understand positions of the law on a principle or field, the developments it has undergone, and gain the competitive edge needed to slug it out successfully against opposing counsels.
All over the world and across different industries, the recipe for professional success lies in building and maintaining invaluable contacts in a professional community. Nowadays, it is never enough to rely on what you know only, there’s a higher place for who you know too. The legal profession is no exception to any of this –it’s only through professional contacts that you get to be aware of current legal trends, be in-the-know about lucrative job opportunities that aren’t often advertised, and get links to judges that can easily sign off on your documents at non-working hours. For any young attorney that works at an established law firm –especially the top-tier ones, chances are that your employer has invested in some amount of legaltech to make your bullpen-life easier.
Possessing expert knowledge of and usage about these tools makes you a credible resource person that fellow attorneys can come to for tips on how to handle these tools. This combines to help you build networks and connections with lawyers at various levels across the legal business. Your reputation would make partners come calling to assign you tasks.
Yes, law firms with large legal tech investments have technical officers – that are often non-legal professionals – who train attorneys on legaltech usage and help troubleshoot when matters get out of hand. The reality, however, is that birds of the same feather flock together –a legal practitioner would always prefer taking cues on the usage of Lexis Nexis from another lawyer than from a non-legal tech assistant who doesn’t speak legalese and cannot perhaps demonstrate the tool’s usage in varying scenarios and ways.
Even if your law firm isn’t so interested in legal technologies, a personal decision to acquire these software-based technologies leads to churning out of qualitative solutions and ideas –something you can bet wouldn’t ever go unnoticed. At some point, someone would pick up the scent and enquire how you turn in your tasks before everyone else in the bullpen. Undoubtedly, that interaction enhances your chance to forge lifelong, professional bonds and the circle continues to expand as the news spread.
Investment in the usage and mastering of these tools by a solo, young lawyer, can also help forge lifelong relationships with fellow young lawyers who come calling to know your success recipe when you start to reap the benefits of the usage of legal technologies –which is fast rise into prominence.
With AI-powered legaltech like Luminance, sole practitioners can work on presumptuously difficult and hard-to-crack briefs for young practitioners with little or no experience at all. With Luminance, a fresh, out-of-school law graduate can quickly work through the legalese in technical contracts. This helps to cut through swathes of unfamiliar, industry-specialised terms at record time than would perhaps have been expected of a mid-experienced senior lawyer. This bolsters a boutique-lawyer’s rep as an efficient deliverer of quality legal services and paves way for a broadened client base and bigger briefs. Referrals from satisfied clients thus help place a young lawyer on the radar of his targeted clients.
For young associates aiming for the top echelon in established law firms, usage of AI-powered tech can contribute to placing you on corporate promotion radars. The consistent churning of qualitative solutions facilitated by these tools will put you on the radar of firm partners and other people that have a say in the corporate promotion process.
The tripod of professional intuition, networking, and radar-placement are among the most important factors necessary to catapult today’s young lawyer into the limelight.
Legal AI is here and it is important that ambitious, young lawyers take advantage of it and not join most of the older generation that is condemning it. As Marcus Janko, Partner at KLIEMT.HR Lawyers –German member of IUS LABORIS- put it, “understanding and effectively utilizing legaltech solutions helps us to provide better, more focused and more cost-effective client service”.
Flow with the tide or be wave-ed away into irrelevance