The position law firms are finding themselves in these days is the balancing act between speed, efficiency, and affordability – the only way to stay relevant.
However, even though the technology is helping law firms find that sweet spot, it’s also the driving factor in the disruption of the legal sector itself.
In what way will technology affect lawyers and other legal professionals, and is it possible not to get left behind?
Lawyers vs Technology
Fortunately, the ‘’queen bee’’ of the legal industry is safe for the time being. This isn’t to say that the technologies such as AI, won’t affect entry-level lawyers, however.
But for the time being, technology is unable to replace a highly skilled lawyer, as it can’t offer the same quality of professional judgment. Meaning, we are years away from seeing a chatbot attending a court hearing.
Even if their positions are safe, lawyers must stay ahead of the curve and maintain their competitive edge. They can reach their full potential by taking advantage of available technology and following the latest trends happening in the legal industry.
The Future of Support Jobs
On the other hand, technology might completely change and even eliminate many of the support roles in the legal sector.
According to the research by The Law Society of England and Wales, there will be a huge decline in jobs in the legal profession by 2027. A decrease of 4%, or 13.000 jobs. The future seems even grimmer if the worst-case scenario occurs, in which case, 22.000 jobs are at risk.
Not surprisingly, the roles that will take the biggest hit are legal assistants and secretaries.
For instance, automation has completely changed the workflow of the legal practice. The majority of administrative and repetitive tasks are now almost completely automated.
A great example of this shift can be seen in how the availability of legal document writing software solutions and AI-powered document review affected this process. Tasks related to document creation, editing, and even review are much more simplified and don’t require as much time or effort, which minimizes the importance of dedicated legal assistants.
At the same time, clients’ demands for faster responses and more efficiency will eradicate the roles of secretaries who will be replaced by virtual legal assistants and chatbots. According to Gartner, VLA’s will handle the quarter of legal requests as soon as 2023.
What about Paralegals?
Paralegals are also at risk in the age of digital transformation. Outsourcing and the more frequent automation of tasks previously handled by paralegals are making their future uncertain.
This can be seen in the latest trends when it comes to one task that was dominantly accomplished by paralegals – legal research.
AI solutions can be utilized to conduct quality legal research, at a fraction of a time, especially with the advent of natural language processing that makes the research a simpler, faster process. It’s important to note that this is only one of the cases in which technology is shrinking the role of paralegals.
How to Adapt?
Even though the disruption technology is causing in the legal industry is a real threat, the new environment has also opened up many new possibilities.
By being familiar with the latest developments, new lawyers can thrive by running virtual law firms, which have lower operating costs than their traditional counterparts. This means that they can work remotely while at the same time being able to provide cheaper services.
On the other hand, paralegal and legal assistant roles are increasingly more technologically demanding. More companies are relying upon legal professionals who possess the necessary legal knowledge but also a high technological proficiency. In the context of smaller law firms, support roles are rapidly transforming into tech-support roles.
Paralegals and other legal professionals can thus survive by frequently updating their skills and being aware of ways to make their law firms even more efficient through the use of new technologies.
While lower-skilled jobs might, unfortunately, become extinct by the end of the decade, the current landscape lends itself well towards new high-skill job positions. For instance, we might see a rise in data and analytics roles that will take advantage of various information to create actionable insights that will take their respective companies to the next level.
Avoiding the Crisis
Technology, while threatening the lawyers who possess a limited skill set in this department, can help modern lawyers thrive even more by allowing them the opportunity to move and anchor their practice into a digital space.
At the same time, the support roles of the legal profession have to accept the fact that their jobs might look radically different in the future. Increasing their understanding of technology should logically be at the top of their priorities.
It’s never been more important for legal professionals to anticipate changes not only happening within their industry but in the general business environment as well. Constant evolution and technological adaptation are necessary to survive and thrive in the digital age.