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On 10 April 2013, LexisNexis held its first roundtable on the Future of Law. The panel was composed of practitioners, educators, influencers in the regulatory world and suppliers to the market. It was chaired by Nick West, Director of Legal Markets at LexisNexis.
The panellists were asked to consider how much legal work is likely to be completed by non-lawyers in 2025 – by examining where we are currently, identifying trends and predicting how the market is likely to be shaped in the future.
They were then split into two groups and asked to compare and contract ideas. After 45 minutes the two groups were brought back together to discuss their findings.
The panel agreed that the market is stagnating. It was suggested that in the past there was an “us and them” culture adopted by the Magic and Silver Circle firms. However, post-Lehman, the market changed: the power was no longer in the law firms but in the hands of General Counsel and the individual. The market is now buyer-led and the buyer wants to engage with the law firm in a way that suits them. It is likely the new generation will be more comfortable conducting their business digitally, and so law firms will need to meet this need and quickly.
Interestingly, though, the point was made that whilst clients will enquire about new models in a law firm they will often ask to complete the business through the traditional processes; implying that the steps to embracing legal technology are still to be made.
It was also considered that there may be technological disruption from the East. It was suggested that whilst there is strong value in Western justice and it is a “premium product”, the East has the advantage of looking at the market afresh and will be developing commercial systems.
It was felt by some that the rise of technology suggests that there will be fewer lawyers in practice in the future. One point was made that the power of statistics with codified knowledge makes it feasible that computers could, and will, automate most legal tasks. Furthermore, artificial intelligence will be deployed in such a way that statistical products will not just process administrative tasks but will also have the capability to make judgement calls. An example was given that it is a possible that a computer model with years of statistics would be more likely to correctly predict the outcome of a case than a lawyer. This suggests that there could be a form of “self-service” law in the future.
However, it was asserted that whilst technology may provide results – and even analysis – it would be unable to serve the business needs of the community: there will still be a need for client interaction. This brought them onto the concept of emotional intelligence; they considered that how lawyers manage the client relationship is as important as their technical knowledge. Yahoo was used as an example – that not all aspects of business can be managed online.Indicating that you may not instruct a lawyer but there will still be overall management.
Mindful of the decline in legal jobs, the question was asked whether we should be encouraging the next generation to pursue law degrees and careers in the legal profession.
It was generally agreed that a law degree will remain a worthwhile qualification but students should not expect to follow the traditional routes to gain employment and progress in the law.
Furthermore, to ensure students are equipped to deal with the changing market, some argued that law schools will need to be radical in their thinking and teach students a wider range of skills in business, technology and communication, rather than just the law.
Law students will be encouraged to look beyond the rules and become more innovative in their thinking; they will also require a thorough understanding of the legal markets.
However, it was also said that we should not expect too much of our future graduates; that there should still be room to learn on the job.
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