How To Future Proof Your Legal Career

Lisa Wright,

Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and automation processes have helped some lawyers to streamline their businesses and provide a faster and more cost effective service for their clients. The intellectual property sector is one of the best in class examples of this trend and shows how the partnership between the human and new technology can bring trademark search and watch to a new level - enabling IP lawyers to get real time watch of global trademark portfolios and instant trademark search worldwide.

Women in Law 

To find out more about how the legal industry is adapting to this change on May 17 2019 we attended the Women in Law Summit in London. This event was held at Olympia in Hammersmith and served as a forum for women working in the legal profession to network and to get inspired by industry experts. The conference featured a Future of Law track, which gave some insightful commentary on both how legal tech is disrupting the legal industry and what skill sets will be important for the future. The session was led by Helen Libson, Global Community Manager for Peerpoint, which is part of Allen and Overy, and Alexandra Gladwell, Senior Commercial Litigation lawyer and Peerpoint consultant. 

The Future of Law

Peerpoint is Allen & Overy’s global resourcing business. It affords consultant lawyers access to the best work, clients, support and resources. In return, Peerpoint’s clients can access a panel of top tier lawyers across all experience levels to work with their in-house teams, whilst being supported by Allen & Overy. 

Helen worked on Peerpoint’s The Future for Legal Talent report, based on a survey of over 1,000 lawyers globally, which examined issues such as how lawyers define success, their career expectations, challenges and the industry’s future. 

We caught up with Helen after the event to chat to her in-depth about how technology is disrupting the legal industry, how to future proof your skill set and thoughts on emerging trends in the legal profession for 2020 and beyond!

1. What are your views on the role of legal technology in the industry? 

I think the role of technology in the industry is an exciting one. We are going to see so many more opportunities for interesting roles and diversification within our industry. There’s a misconception that lawyers feel negatively about this change but the results from our survey revealed that there was a sense of optimism about the use of technology within law. 

One of the reasons why it will be such a positive shift is that it enables lawyers to get on with the elements of their roles they enjoy rather than getting burdened with time-consuming and sometimes tedious tasks. 

The term ‘legal technology’ can be rather misleading because it makes one think of shiny new products and complex AI solutions when in fact we need to broaden how we understand and define ‘legal technology’. Legal technology should mean anything technological that drives greater efficiency in our legal work. This means every one of us can take more ownership of how we interact with legal technology and streamline how we work.

2. Given the rapid advances in artificial intelligence in the legal profession, how can lawyers best ensure that their skill sets are future-proofed?

In our survey, we found that only 30% of lawyers felt they were equipped for the changes happening in the industry, which is quite alarming. However, the good news is that there are a number of ways in which lawyers can ‘future proof’ themselves.

Firstly, as technology advances, we will increasingly see more diverse teams working on legal matters. It’s important that equal weight is given to each member of the team whether or not they’re a traditionally trained lawyer. It’s not necessary to know the intricacies of the technology products being used on matters, much like it isn’t necessary to know how to code. However, it is important that you’re open to learning and understanding how they fit into your work and are comfortable with the output from that technology.

Secondly, it’s important to differentiate yourself. Employers are increasingly looking for lawyers who understand the wider context of their work and aren’t necessarily niche specialists. Those who can bridge a number of skill sets, for example having project management experience, will be more sought after. 

Traditionally, lawyers would define themselves by their experience in quite a linear fashion, based on the transactions they’ve worked on. If you’re a lawyer, a really valuable exercise is to think about your skill set carefully: by doing that you’ll identify where your strengths lie and where there might be gaps. 

Additionally, having a strong personal brand and marketing themselves effectively is key to making sure they remain valuable in their current business and role, as well as in the wider market. We recently ran a session on crafting elevator pitches, which although a challenging exercise is enormously helpful not only when talking to others but in understanding what value one is actually offering.

3. The future of law is a hot topic at the moment. What trends do you see coming down the line in 2020 and beyond?

From my point of view I think we’ll see an increase in lawyers choosing the consulting route and clients changing their resourcing structures to feature more flexible solutions, such as short term contracts based around projects. 

In our survey, we found that the biggest marker of success amongst our respondents (both male and female) was achieving work-life balance. We will increasingly see lawyers making decisions about their career and employers based around that. Consulting as a career path will continue to become more mainstream as it offers the opportunity to take more control over how you work and balance your career.

We’ll also see new routes into law that will take into account different skills. These will differ from the traditional linear path, for example, we’re starting to see interesting graduate and training contract initiatives based around legal technology and project management. 

I really hope that as we move beyond 2020, we will be able to tackle the problem with diversity within the industry in a more collective and impactful way. It’s certainly on the agenda but the change has been slow.

4. What initiatives is Peerpoint working on to support the younger generation of lawyers looking for alternative career paths and modern ways of working?

We’re exploring different ways in which lawyers at the more junior end of their careers can take greater control of their career path by doing legal consulting while maintaining career certainty and professional development. A lot of our current thinking is about how we can support the legal industry in adapting to new ways of working and what role we can play in helping to achieve the flexibility and adaptability that other industries are already successfully demonstrating, both on the client side and the consultant side.

Get Future Ready

Change is already here and more is coming down the line in 2020 and beyond, but are you future ready? The bottom line is that technology is a tool to be leveraged by your business, to increase performance and save you time and resources. It can bring teams together and can help you to get fast, clear and accurate results. 

What’s New?

This year TrademarkNow has developed two new AI based pay as-you-go search tools powered by our battle tested second generation AI: Enhanced Knockout Search (for preliminary trademark searches) and AI Clearance Search (for more complex similarity risk assessment). 

These two AI tools are complemented by our Free Basic Knockout Search feature which enables you to run unlimited exact-match screening searches for USPTO and EUIPO trademark registries at the same time. 

If you are new to this kind of technology try starting with a knockout search of your trademark candidates for free

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