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‘Lawyer technologist’ roles on the rise

‘Lawyer technologist’ roles on the rise

Lawyer roles

A hybrid role, combining the legal and IT departments of firms, is becoming the norm in overseas jurisdictions, with the trend likely to pick up speed in Australia.

Speaking at Relativity’s Relativity Fest, held at Chicago's Hilton Hotel between 30 September–3 October, Steptoe & Johnson’s Anna Frye and Ryan Flinspach spoke of ‘the plight of the lawyer technologist’. 

As technology becomes more advanced, the need for lawyers with skills in tech does also, according to Ms Frye and Ms Flinspach, who said the development is seeing more US firms bring on “lawyer technologists”.

“A lawyer technologist to me is a hybrid role where a lawyer or paralegal perform their traditional legal role but crosses over into the role of being a technology specialist as well,” Ms Frye explained.

However, there are some key challenges associated with such a role, according to Mr Flinspach, who said lawyer technologists are often underutilised due to the fear legal professionals have over using technology.

“The other side of that is that many IT professionals assume that a lawyer technologist is just a regular lawyer and that they couldn't possibly understand IT infrastructure or the importance of the role in that field,” he added.

“So we find ourselves, unfortunately, in the middle of this and it gets left to us to prove ourselves.”

There are several ways lawyer technologists can mitigate the hesitation others in the business have in working with them, Ms Frye noted.

The first is to gain their trust.

“How do we gain their trust? The first thing is to share experiences and success stories. If you can share with them things that might make them feel good about what you’re doing, that you understand their role in the process, they’re going to look at you a little bit more comfortably,” said Ms Frye.

The next step is to get your firm excited about the role and what it has to offer.

“If you can start to give them some advice, some guidance on the way to do things, it makes them feel a little bit better,"  Ms Frye said.

“Now they understand that you know where they’re coming from and they also understand that you know how to speak the lingo of the other side.”

Further, its important for lawyer technologists to get themselves involved in matters they can assist with, according to Ms Frye.

“Get involved in the really early stages if they'll let you in the matter… Remind them, over and over again, that you’re on the same team. You’re not trying to steal their work. You’re trying to help them and their client,” she said.

 

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