More Data and New Legal Technology Will Force Lawyers to Expand their Digital Skillsets

Data proficiency has become a “must-have” for law firms, as technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) continue to change the legal profession forever. Categorizing the sheer amount of data housed in legal databases, automating standard tasks such as due diligence and contract reviews are all much easier and more accurate with legal AI solutions.

It’s also important to understand how these advances in legal technology and increasing adoption will impact junior legal workers, whether it be the latest class of incoming lawyers fresh off the bar exam, or graduates outside of law school being recruited to man the new legal data infrastructure.

As Alex Smith of Reed Smith points out, not being equipped with skillsets in data analysis will soon be a barrier to getting legal jobs at all, as will the lack of core technical knowledge. This alone should be enough to convince today’s law students to seek technical training as part of their curriculum, but there’s more to it.

As Smith notes, the demand for graduates in STEM fields, as opposed to traditional law school graduates, will only increase as firms and legal divisions look to stay ahead of the curve and meet market demand. It won’t be unheard of for math, science and engineering graduates to be brought in to help develop and maintain legal databases and technology tools.

That being said, the junior legal class of today still has time to build up their digital proficiencies and better understand where the market is going. Part of this is understanding what legal advising means in this digital day and age. At the very least, anyone in a legal role will need to know the legal and privacy implications of technology.

You might look at this picture and assume it means far less junior-level positions will be in the mix due to automation, but that’s not the case at all. A recent report by consultancy firm AlphaBeta says only 15% of work conducted by legal professionals will be automated by 2030, much less than fields like mining or construction. The Law Society of England and Wales even points to an increase in hiring of junior legal staff members, largely as a means to parse through all the data being generated by digital tools.

Jean Yang, our VP of the Onit AI Center of Excellence, had a proof point earlier in her career that demonstrated the importance of automating tasks through technology. One of her assignments in her first year as a junior lawyer was repetitive, manual and time consuming, so as an experiment she asked a developer she knew to write some code to automatically complete parts of the tasks, which she then went back and manually reviewed.

This test turned a five-day task into a two-day task and left her ample time to consider the substantive issues in the case, and tackle things from a more strategic level. Having this time to work on client needs was beneficial for her growth, which is something junior legal team members are always hungry for.

It’s only a matter of time before law firms start to search for graduates who can help them merge technology and the law, both putting the pressure on law schools to train their students in a broader range of skills and opening opportunities for grads who are tech-savvy and adaptive. Keep in mind, this marriage of worlds goes the other way too, with STEM jobs increasingly needing soft skills like good judgment, decision making, deductive reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving that legal graduates have in spades. In short, it’s time to bridge law and STEM and take advantage of them, before the field gets too crowded.

Interested in learning more about legal automation? Hear how Pearson used automation to transform legal service delivery.

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