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Law students future-proof with niche skills

An emerging group of young lawyers are equipping themselves with niche technological and business skills as ‘disruptors’ force the legal industry to reimagine both its identity and future outlook.

Future-proofing is as much a concern for newly minted lawyers as for the industry at large. Savvy students are reaching for experiences and skills that will equip them to create the future. Rather than inheriting the uncertainties of tomorrow’s legal profession, they plan to build it.

Shaun Chung is a 23-year-old business/law student in the final year of his degree. He is the young gun behind a prototype chatbot called Lexi, recently trialled by LawPath as a way to generate customised privacy policies online.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Mr Chung said students who want to stand out from the crowd should target their interests and seek opportunities to rub shoulders with people dissimilar to them. Would-be lawyers should aim to connect with technically different individuals and cultivate special expertise that could be transferred to law, he urged.

“It’s important to try to target a particular area of passions you have. What I do is I surround myself with people who are unlike me, more than I surround myself with people who like me,” Mr Chung said.

“So for example, if I had an emerging interest in artificial intelligence, I would talk to a technically gifted computer scientist, but also go out and see what people are actually doing to commoditise legal services,” he said.

According to Mr Chung, his peers understand that entry into the fiercely competitive legal job market demands a unique and “multidimensional” perspective. Present-day graduates know to take into account the market landscape, consumer interests and the business value of efficiency.

“I think law students are quite commercially savvy these days. There’s a larger awareness of what’s happening in the industry. Despite the fact that the [law school] curriculum has not radically changed, students are going out and have an interest in what’s happening in the future,” Mr Chung said.

“It is now necessary for the new age of lawyers to be more multidimensional. It is all about seeing things from more than one perspective,” he said.

As a legal engineer, Mr Chung spends three days of his week inventing new ways for the legal industry to plug into emerging technologies. His part-time job with LawPath is dedicated to dreaming up uses for existing applications, and ways that trends in the tech space can service law.

Exposure to the innovative legal services sector has transformed the law student’s view of the profession and the shape his career will take.  

“Before really getting into the legal-tech space, I had a very set view of what the law would be.

“I had this idea that law was a professional service of immense efficiencies, and that was why it such a well-respected industry. After [my job with] LawPath, I began thinking that perhaps we could use technology to leverage efficiencies [to improve] the particular way things have been done,” Mr Chung said.

Mr Chung’s interest in the possibilities for tech capabilities to converge with law was piqued in the second year of his degree. After reading an article about LawPath in 2014, he sent the company an email. He then met with the bosses, was hired as a legal analyst and his interest in legal tech took off.

Next year Mr Chung will join MinterEllison, where has he landed a job as a graduate lawyer in Sydney.

Mr Chung encouraged other students who want exposure to the law-tech sector to go to events attended by legal experts actively exploring the space.

“Go out beyond the legal industry. The most important thing is not to silo your perspective to a legal perspective [alone],” Mr Chung said.

“Go out there and see what other industries and all these brilliant people are doing and try to bring it back, to see how we can incorporate it into the legal industry.”

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