“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
The legal profession is very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones. It is infamous for its staunch adherence to tradition, under the guise of “certainty” and (mostly) at the expense of innovation.
Traditionally, the nature of work, including in the legal profession, has been structured around the 40-hour work week in a brick-and-mortar setting. This approach was desirable as it allowed the best way for people to gather in one place in order to connect and collaborate towards a common purpose. However, in view of the constant improvements to the ways in which we connect, it is imperative that legal practitioners continue to think and rethink about how we approach the concept of work and the concomitant skills required for the continued advancement of the profession.
For example, from a leadership perspective, the old guard will certainly have to forgo its “command and control” style, and opt, instead, for a more collaborative and shared accountability approach. The modern legal practitioner is no longer motivated by the tired and out-dated orthodoxies of the carrot-and-stick “aggressor” style of leadership, but is instead more receptive to benevolence and compassion.
In the same vein, the legal profession in the automation era demands increased flexible human capital. It is no longer sufficient (and has not been for a long time) to simply “know” the law in order to practice the law (successfully). Instead the future practitioner is required to augment his or her existing legal knowledge with various other skills, including an extensive understanding of the impact of technology and how to effectively maximise its application to the legal industry, as well as how to optimise technology to better analyse data or implement pattern-recognition algorithms to enable the practitioner to better service clients.
The legal profession and individual practitioners should be intentional about thinking and adapting to these changes, failing which it risks sharing a fate with Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’.