30 July 2019 21:34 by Mark Dodd
Research technologies are improving daily, alongside an increasingly client-driven culture. As a result, the way lawyers do business is changing. Historically technical and complicated, over the years, the legal profession has become increasingly open. The internet is enabling clients to research their cases even before meeting their lawyers. Despite legal research, alongside the ability of knowing the law, being a traditionally important aspect of good-lawyering, this is now becoming a pre-requisite. As a result, how should we define what makes a successful lawyer? And how can lawyers stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly client-driven marketplace?
Technology won’t replace lawyers – or will it?
Much has been written in recent years about the importance of innovation in the legal sector and how technology can improve the efficiency of law firms. But commentators often seem reluctant to consider how all these changes affect the job of lawyers, tiptoeing around the potential of certain technologies to make some of the traditional lawyering skills redundant, and often heralding digital transformation with the caveat: “lawyers will continue be as important as ever”. So what is the reality?
The guardians of legal knowledge (no longer)
The Dickensian trope of lawyers as fusty custodians of legal lore, surrounded by dusty tomes and speaking Latin, created a vivid perception which has survived astonishingly well. Although some of the trappings of this image remain the way solicitors and barristers work today has changed immensely. Perhaps a key development which has led to this transformation is the ease of access to legal information. Only a couple of decades ago, in order to carry out effective legal research it was generally necessary to have access to a small library of physical books containing case law, legislation and commentary. Now anyone with an internet connected device can access up to date legal information free of charge with a few keyword searches. This has changed the lives of lawyers, who can now embrace flexible working – but, perhaps more importantly, has furnished the general public with instant access to the laws of the land. The golden keys to the kingdom of legal knowledge, previously the domain of the legal professional, is now in the hands of the “layman”.