Why Legal Tech is Crucial for Firms to Attract Top Talent
Against a backdrop of an increasingly dynamic job market, rising rates of legal burnout and tech-savvy incoming graduates, attracting and retaining bright young lawyers is more important than ever for law firms around the world.
Lawyer Monthly hears from Eleanor Weaver, CEO of Luminance, on how technology has become integral to the search for top legal talent.
The reality is that today, when it comes to picking a career path, the best and brightest graduates have a lot of options. Whilst 30 years’ ago, a career in a law firm or in a City bank was seen as the aspirational career choice, today’s graduating classes are looking at a more diverse job market and less ‘traditional’ career paths, where the prospect of joining a young and fast-paced tech startup might seem more appealing, for example. Moreover, having grown up with technology at their fingertips, these younger cohorts are in tune with the tools that are out there and can help them progress in their careers.
Tanja Podinic, Global Director of Innovation Programs at the world’s largest law firm, Dentons, recently said to me that the firm are being asked by their junior lawyers: ‘What technology are you using? Will we be exposed to it? How often will we be using it?’ These increasingly tech-savvy incoming trainees expect a certain level of technology adoption as standard in their professional lives, just as it is in their personal lives, and are arriving at their prospective firms equipped with an understanding of how these tools work in practice.
For instance, just last year, Luminance partnered with the Scottish law firm Burness Paull and the University of Glasgow to offer a practical legal technology course to provide law students with an opportunity to learn how to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to a real legal matter, all before stepping foot in a law firm.
These increasingly tech-savvy incoming trainees expect a certain level of technology adoption as standard in their professional lives
It has therefore become clear that firms’ ability to meet the expectations of the upcoming generation and provide the latest technology is an ever more important part of attracting that top talent. But it also works both ways. A recent study by management consultant Robert Half Legal found that more than three out of five employers filling open positions said their hiring decisions are influenced by a candidate’s technical abilities. Developing skills around how to use the latest technology is therefore equally crucial for budding lawyers looking for a competitive edge.
But it’s not just about attracting those bright-eyed young lawyers, it’s also about encouraging them to stay. The legal industry is no stranger to burnout and job dissatisfaction. A report by the Law Society’s Junior Law Division found that 93% of junior lawyers in England and Wales felt stressed in the month before the survey, with one-fifth of respondents reportedly feeling unable to cope on a regular basis.
One of the main causes of stress identified was the high workload, with young lawyers having traditionally been confined to lengthy and laborious tasks such as reading and analysing hundreds – sometimes thousands – of documents in search for relevant clauses or unusual terms, leaving little time for the high-value areas of critical thinking and analysis that they trained for. In some cases, this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with the perks of most jobs – the networking, socialising and off-site days – gone, leaving only a stripped-back version of young lawyers and their laptops at the kitchen table.
But AI is playing a big role in improving the workload of junior lawyers and, in turn, aiding in the retention of the partners of tomorrow. By helping legal teams read, understand and analyse vast quantities of documentation, whether that’s during a criminal investigation or a corporate transaction, AI is helping lawyers to spend less time trudging through documents and labelling key clauses, and instead focus more time on understanding what the documents mean, drawing the all-important insights and delivering the valued advice to the client in a timely manner.
Crucially, over 70% of trainee lawyers believe that legal technology allows them to focus on more challenging work according to a report we ran at Luminance last year, highlighting how important this type of technology is for job satisfaction and work-life balance. Moreover, advanced collaboration tools are helping young lawyers to secure a tighter feedback loop with more senior colleagues, something which has become ever-more critical since the onset of the pandemic.
Jan Smit, Innovation Manager at Slaughter & May, recently said to me: “For us, it is very important that we have the best legal technology to make sure we attract the best talent and ensure we have it available for the younger generation joining the firm.” Clearly, those firms that provide the right digital tools will be best placed to not only attract the most talented young lawyers, but to retain them.