LAWYER BOTS, PEOPLE, AND THE FUTURE OF LAW
Written on the 22 February 2017 by James Perkins
"YOU might have seen lawyer bots now", says Terri Mottershead as she discusses how technology has disrupted the law profession in recent years with Brisbane Legal.
Having not heard of lawyer bots until that moment, Brisbane Legal later finds out that a teenager in London created DoNotPay in September 2015, which has so far helped successfully appeal 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York.
DoNotPay's creator, Joshua Browder, became the youngest person to be listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List last year and is now working on making lawyer bots to help refugees fill out asylum claims.
Mottershead, the director of the Centre for Legal Innovation at the College of Law, has just edited a new book, Innovating talent management in law firms: developing tomorrow's legal workforce, which aims to prepare lawyers and firms for the future of law.
Technology is one of three things that have disrupted the profession in recent years, says Mottershead - the others being globalisation, and the client.
"First, technology is a huge disruptor and has changed how legal services are delivered, by who, when and where," says Mottershead.
"Second, globalisation means that no longer, from a talent management perspective, are we sourcing capabilities just in Australia. We are looking to the whole world."
"Third, the client has changed a lot and there are two main groups: The b2b group of clients, and the b2c clients."
On the b2b side, in-house counsel and corporate counsel roles have become more influential, and there is more pressure for efficiency and effectiveness, so tasks are being pushed to outside law firms and council.
For b2c, the consumer is looking for help to get legal advice, and they want it to be affordable.
Mottershead says some technologies are tools that help lawyers do jobs better and more efficiently, while in other cases they are being used to create new products in areas such as predictive analytics and risk management that could replace lawyers.
"Technology is changing us in terms of how we practice law and what we practice, as well as who survives when we get to lawyer bots - artificial intelligence will change the work we are doing," she says.
"What we in the past called legal work is not just being done by lawyers anymore."
This need for new skills in areas such as data security, privacy, risk management, and innovation means there won't just be lawyers working in law firms.
"Technology has had such a huge change in how we practice, who practices and how we get access to justice."
The other big part of this is people: who is doing what, and what they need to be doing.
"There are many changes taking place in the workforce," says Mottershead. "People work part time, full time, and casually. Law firms have become a multi-disciplinary environment. Lawyers are not just working with lawyers, they are working with all these other professions.
"It is about how you work and how you manage talent having the right people doing the right things, at the right time and at the right price."
Mottershead says some of the trends in technology can be "a little depressing", given jobs are being lost, but there is also opportunity.
"There are challenges as we navigate these changes and also lots of opportunities and new areas of practice. There are new roles in law firms. Lawyers who have graduated with a law degree and who have a big interest in technology can now combine those interests.
"Who would have thought you would need a specialist in drone law?"
As technology integrates further, talent should be managed holistically - people need to be connected in a strategic way, looking at recruitment and succession planning and connecting all the dots in between.
One example is the use of billable hours.
"Using billable hours as the sole measure for someone's contribution to the firm doesn't work well if most the workforce doesn't work for an extended period," says Mottershead.
"Basing billable hours over a year doesn't work well when the majority is only part time, or the workforce is casual and on demand.
"Looking at these things and understanding how they fit together is a critical part of talent management, connecting it to strategy and what is happening in the marketplace."
The Centre for Legal Innovation is a new initiative of the College of Law. It is a resource to support practising lawyers and organisations in the transformation from the more traditional law model to what has been termed the 'new law' model.
"It is not an all or nothing evolution," says Mottershead. "Certain things at this point are not negotiable every law firm, no matter where it is located, or what size it is, is obviously using some form of technology at this point in time.
"How far we are along the continuum is open for debate. I don't think it will ever end and I hope it never will and we continue to innovate."
If you would like to win a copy of Innovating talent management in law firms: developing tomorrow's legal workforce, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject headline Future of Law, and your name and address in the body. Brisbane Legal has one copy of the book to give away.