A Successful Legal Career Today Requires an Embrace of Technology
As with a good amount of modern business, sharp use of tech and data can give a legal practitioner an edge for success in their field.
Lawyer Monthly hears more from Alex Smith, Global Product Management Lead for iManage RAVN, on how lawyers can use technology to thrive in their careers.
To build a successful legal career, all you need to do is study law and then apply it, right?
In previous decades, that might’ve been true. But with rapidly growing adoption of digitised processes, it’s essential for legal professionals to embrace technology.
As a lawyer, your ability to understand the way various technological systems work, what data they hold, and what techniques to use to discover important information, patterns, and connections in that data provides an important differentiator.
Put another way: whilst you may have a specific area of expertise in law, the real value of your expertise will lie in your capability to tailor and leverage the information to your clients’ unique situation. Those professionals and those firms that are best able to leverage technology to take a data-driven approach will secure a powerful competitive advantage.
Digging into the Data
It’s helpful here to provide some examples of how exactly this embrace of technology and data might prove useful in the course of one’s legal career.
Imagine a massive repapering project undertaken for a financial services client in advance of the LIBOR transition that requires reviewing thousands of contracts to see which ones need to be updated. Examining those contracts manually would require a small army of humans and would result in an extravagant bill for the client.
Whilst you may have a specific area of expertise in law, the real value of your expertise will lie in your capability to tailor and leverage the information to your clients’ unique situation.
Technologies like AI can provide an assist here, quickly reviewing huge volumes of digitised documents, and extracting key clauses and relevant data points. This helps these institutions to better assess where the potential liabilities around LIBOR exist, and which documents need to be updated to mitigate risk.
Having gone through this LIBOR exercise, however, financial services institutions will now have a pool of structured data at their disposal, because they’ve already identified and extracted key pieces of information from their documents.
The tech-savvy lawyer will realise that this very same data can be used as a foundation for the next time that the institution has to go through a repapering exercise in response to new evolutions in the regulatory environment or some seismic event with an industry-wide impact, like Brexit. There will be no need to start from scratch or to reinvent the wheel when tackling these events – they will already have data to build upon and leverage, enabling them to nimbly adjust to changes as they arise.
Making Proactive Moves
The tech- and data-friendly lawyer can even look at data and spot trends, allowing clients to make proactive moves. Let’s take the case of a firm that specialises in leases and property portfolio work and is under mounting cost pressure. The natural next step is to find a way to do leases more efficiently.
This might involve some process mapping and automation that can wring out some of the inefficiencies; for example, they might encourage basing a lease off of a knowledge asset that is a best practice document for how to do a lease.
Being more efficient about that process, however, presents an opportunity to be more analytical and provide greater value to the client. Using AI, the firm can really take a close look at the data and identify opportunities within the property portfolio. For example, if the client holds leases in a large high-rise building and 80 of those leases are up for renewal in the next three months, the firm can take a proactive role in either continuing or discontinuing those leases, based on what sort of trends or insights the data is showing.
Data-Enabled Lawyer = Trusted Business Advisor
If there’s a lesson from the above examples, it’s that firms are awash with data. Finding innovative and practical ways to handle increasing volumes of unstructured data is a necessity – and the more structured the data is, and the more standardised the data collection mechanisms are that have been put in place, the better. For firms, this is the path towards optimal results.
And what about our individual lawyer – how best for them to proceed?
In a world where data-driven decision making is becoming the norm, a ‘data curiosity-led’ disposition will give them broad capabilities that sit outside of the traditional sphere of law. Combined with their traditional legal expertise, these will grant them the distinction of being a ‘data-enabled lawyer’ while simultaneously earning a position as a ‘Trusted Business Advisor’. With data in hand, they will be able to creatively design new ways to solve clients’ problems, proactively stay ahead of the curve, and – in the process – genuinely affect positive business outcomes.