While the legal industry powers through massive technological developments, the role of modern lawyers is being re-shaped.
Technological capabilities are narrowing the avenues for traditional bill-by-the-hour lawyers, instead creating novel roles in entirely new departments .
But are today’s law graduates equipped for modern legal jobs?
Legal tech expert and author Richard Susskind used his address at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum to warn UK law schools that their teaching approach was falling short of their US counterparts.
Susskind criticised law schools for continuing to teach law ‘as it was in the 1970s’ and for failing to offer courses on modern legal technology or the future of legal services.
He said legal education should be transforming at the same pace as legal services, if not faster.
Within the Australian legal industry, firms of all shapes and sizes are being forced to adapt as technological advances chip away at the traditional law firm model.
Key changes to the legal profession so far include the rise of in-house counsel, globalisation, the re-emergence of multidisciplinary practices, and the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and other technology on legal practice.
As lawyers try to come to grips with continuing disruption to the provision of legal services, the next big issue facing the industry is the future of the billable hour, and what place there is, if any, for traditional fee structures in modern law firms.
Despite these dramatic developments, the number of Australian law schools actively integrating technology within legal education is underwhelming.
In order to produce dynamic young lawyers equipped with the skills to succeed in the legal sector, legal education must include courses focusing on the new legal business model, current technological capabilities, and the function of lawyers in an industry experiencing a rapid transformation.
Graduates need to know where they can add value in firms where computer systems and software (such as eDiscovery tools) can effectively do the same work as a team of paralegals, twice as fast.
As Susskind suggested, with the right education and skills, the 2020’s wont be a decade of unemployment, it will be a decade of redeployment…but Australian lawyers need to keep up.