Firms must target 'broadest possible market'
Law firms need to substantially extend their services to cover clients across the board, or else risk losing them to new products and platforms hitting the legal market, according to a corporate and commercial partner.
Speaking at the recent GlobalX Legal Services ‘A Shifting Legal Landscape’ luncheon, Norton Rose Fulbright corporate and commercial partner and APAC technology practice leader, Nick Abrahams, said new digital disrupters such as LegalVision and LawPath have enhanced the need for law firms, regardless of size and location, to significantly extend their services.
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“If you are at risk of being disrupted, you need to figure out a way to provide your services to the broadest possible market,” Mr Abrahams said.
“What we do when we get disrupted, particularly big law firms, is we retreat, and we retreat to the high-end work because we love the high-end work. The problem is everyone is retreating to the high-end work and that's created a massive cost prejudice.
“Look at banking practices around Australia. High-end banking practices have to bid for almost every job now and they're getting cut down in the amounts that they can charge. So you do need to automate, you do need to figure out how you can get exposure to a broader number of people to provide your services.”
Mr Abrahams suggested clients across all practice areas no longer mind going through a product or platform for their legal work, as opposed to a real-life lawyer.
“It used to be the case that we could sit in law firms and go 'This stuff is risky', but the clients are very smart around this stuff now,” he said.
“Legal is just another risk. They manage a full range of risks in their organisations and legal is just one more to manage. They don't feel as concerned about it as I think they used to.”
Mr Abrahams noted that another reason for law firms to extend their services is that these same products and platforms are taking jobs from up-and-coming legal professionals.
“We do have these new models, which are taking what used to be the good work that we could train our juniors on and so forth. That's now disappearing due to the likes of LegalVision, LawPath and others,” he said.
This comment is reinforced by Shelston IP prinicipal Matt Ward, who also recently said that new technology models are taking away valuable opportunities from tomorrow’s lawyers.
Mr Ward noted that to fix the problem, law students should equip themselves with a computing and/or technology degree, on top of the standard law degree.
“Law students should be seriously contemplating supplementing their degree in law with studies in computer programming, and maybe even an MBA,” he said.
Mr Ward said while he doesn’t believe products stemming from artificial intelligence and software technology will completely replace lawyers, they will be doing more of the work that junior lawyers currently do, which will ultimately mean fewer jobs for this demographic.