The Future of Work and Skills for the Changing Nature of Work | A look at the Legal Profession

“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.

That being said, the artificially intelligent advancements and technological developments are resulting in a much more legally savvy client, with very different expectations of how legal services should be delivered and how justice should be administered.

In fact, many jurisdictions around the world are seeing a proliferation in so called “Alternative Legal Service Providers” (ALSPs), which are organisations that perform many of the tasks traditionally undertaken by law firms, by leveraging technology and streamlining processes in ways that are new to the legal industry, and often at more cost effective rates.

Accordingly, increased advancements in technology is necessarily resulting in wider, more efficient and cost-effective access to justice, which should be a welcomed development.

Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Glirastes

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’.

COHEN GROOTBOOM

Associate
Attorney

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