How tech will change the way we train junior lawyers

This article was originally published on the Centre of Legal Innovation website.

I’ve already written about what life as a tech-enabled lawyer of the future might look like. While lawyers and law firms continue to grapple with this issue, they also need to start thinking about how they can meet the challenge of appropriate and effective talent development for the future tech-enabled law firm. How will we train junior lawyers as tech continues to spread and impact the way we work in the legal world?

Generally, automation will mean a greater need for skills in effective interpersonal interactions, using technology, data analysis and developing new solutions.

Training of junior lawyers has often been based on a Master/Apprentice model, rewarding diligent adherence to instructions but not necessarily personal initiative, creative problem solving and risk taking. For some people it can be a comfortable dynamic and they may resist change.

One of the touted benefits of tech is the removal of the mundane tasks and run-of-the-mill problems. However, these are traditionally things on which new lawyers cut their teeth. If junior lawyers have less opportunities to develop confidence incrementally by tackling straight forward legal problems, there will be increased need for training and coaching how to approach the difficult ones.

Junior lawyers may need training for “soft skills” which have traditionally been developed on the job, things like persuasive communication, managing difficult people, resilience and collaborative working. Opportunities for practice may need to be created with role plays, competitions like legal hackathons and mock trials. Maybe virtual environments will be a future training ground.

Introducing process mapping and design thinking will enable law firms to better capture technical legal expertise from experienced lawyers and “the way we do things” for talent development. A more structured approach to deconstructing the way a lawyer thinks about problems – such as decision trees, checklists and templates – can help springboard junior lawyers.

The work required to set up the expert systems and automated processes will require junior lawyers to learn the normal way problems are managed. Working in-house, setting up and maintaining those systems, will be a way for junior lawyers to acquire experience on “business as usual” problems.

Training on how to use technology needs to be constantly accessible in short, on demand, focused sessions. Lawyers with an arts and humanities educational background may be comfortable with “drag and drop” software but struggle with maths, computer science and statistical concepts if they need a deeper understanding of how technology operates.

Data tracking can also measure whether talent management is effective by monitoring whether all staff are given access to professional development opportunities and being paid equally.

New lawyers face an uncertain future, with the impact of automation of legal services still an unknown. However, it’s also an exciting future, with the prospect of a career that doesn’t involve years of dreary, repetitive and mundane work before you can really start to expand your mind to complex and rewarding legal work.

About the Author

Fiona McLay is an experienced commercial litigation lawyer. She helps business co-owners navigate conflict between them in “business break ups” without destroying the value of the business. Fiona is Special Counsel at Rankin & Co Business Lawyers, a paperless and virtual law firm, where she can use technology to work smarter – and with a reduced risk of paper cuts. You can follow her @Fionamclay or on Linkedin.

Leave A Comment