• Monday, April 15, 2024
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How technology is changing the legal sector- Part I

How technology is changing the legal sector- Part I

Introduction

The impact of technology on the legal world is undeniable, especially given the context of the current global pandemic. This piece will focus on how technology is changing the legal sector by creating a need for new roles within law firms.

Creating new roles

Technological advances have arguably pushed for the introduction of new legal roles from two different standpoints. First, the traditional organisation of firms is no longer viable due to technology. The online footprint of firms is rapidly expanding and technology is offering new methods which are more affordable, accessible and of higher quality. Web-based resources are exacerbating the culture of disintermediation as clients are able to cut out solicitors and meet their needs through increasingly advanced systems. Technology is therefore exceeding certain capabilities of traditional solicitors, and will only continue to do so, with computers expected to “surpass the capacity of the human brain” within 10 years. This means that legal professionals need to adapt to offer a broader range of expertise to clients. The way to do this is to redefine the services that they offer. They need to apply legal knowledge within modern contexts, advance their technological abilities, integrate non-legal expertise and, most importantly, offer what technology cannot: a human touch. All of this can be achieved through the introduction of new legal roles.

Secondly, technology has advanced such that it is no longer in the periphery of legal services. It is therefore insufficient for firms to outsource technologists, as legal knowledge and skills must be combined with advanced technological expertise in order for the needs of clients to be met. This creates demand for individuals that can navigate technology within the legal sphere, who are neither traditional solicitors, nor traditional technologists. Such a person, representing a conglomerate of technology and law, will arguably be essential within 15 years as technological singularity will be reached.

New legal roles

New legal roles which may develop in line with technology within the next two decades have been noted by Susskind. This piece will focus on the legal technologist, the legal process analyst, the legal data scientist and the technological research and development (R&D) worker and their respective roles, key skills and qualification requirements. These particular roles have been addressed because they demonstrate the correlation of law and technology in a variety of ways, go beyond the classic profile of a solicitor and are predicted to move firms into the twenty-first century.

Legal technologist

The role of a legal technologist stems directly from the introduction of technology into the legal sector as their primary function is to act as an intermediary between technology and law.

Legal process analyst

The legal process analyst, however, has a more tenuous link with law and technology. They would not work directly on any technological developments, nor would they need a legal qualification, but they would be crucial in analysing and renovating the organisation of law firms, which is particularly important given technological changes. With firms employing new methods and hiring employees with never-before-seen titles, the legal process analyst would ensure that workloads are handled effectively during a turbulent technological shift.

Legal data scientist

On the other hand, the legal data scientist has an evident technological basis, as their role is to manipulate data for use in systems and processes. Interestingly though, they too would not require a legal qualification and instead need only a good understanding of the legal sector alongside a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualification.

Technological R&D worker

Lastly, the technological R&D worker, a highly sought-after role in firms that want to remain at the cutting edge of law and technology. This role requires a very broad range of skills developed both within and outside law and technology, so that new technologies can be created to deliver legal services.

Amy Bullows, University of Sheffield Department of Law, The University of Sheffield School of Law, Sheffield, UK. [email protected]