Lawyers must ‘engage with technology on a day-to-day basis’ in 2024 and beyond
There is a wide variety of things firms should be prioritising in light of the rise of emerging tech and AI – including the responsible use of it and developing AI skills in junior lawyers, according to this pair.
Terri Mottershead is the executive director for the Centre of Legal Innovation at the College of Law, and Caryn Sandler is a partner and the chief knowledge and innovation officer at Gilbert and Tobin, the co-chair of the Centre for Legal Innovation Advisory Board, and a multiple award winner at Lawyers Weekly Awards.
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Speaking on an episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with the College of Law, the pair discussed the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into daily legal practice and what firms and young lawyers need to focus on moving forward.
This conversation comes off the back of ChatGPT making global headlines throughout 2023, prompting waves of change within a number of industries, including the legal profession. You can read Lawyers Weekly’s full coverage of ChatGPT and other AI platforms and what lawyers need to know here.
AI has – and will continue to – become a bigger part of legal education, professional development and daily practice as client expectations evolve. As such, Ms Sandler said there were a number of questions organisations should be asking themselves moving into 2024.
“One thing I would say is you need to really challenge an organisation and the people within it to really understand this technology. I think that is critical. But what has clearly changed in the last six months is the ability to actually bring these models into your own ecosystem effectively so you can engage with them in a very secure environment. So, looking at your broader technology ecosystem and readying your technology ecosystem to engage with the technology will also absolutely be front of mind,” she explained.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of organisations really thinking about what does responsible use of AI look like and what policies do we need to put in place to helpfully guide their broader organisations as well as lawyers in terms of gauging it with this technology? And then, we obviously run into the questions around the business model long term. It’s very difficult to actually look at that now, but these are all the things I think anyone in a sort of leadership position in an organisation would be thinking about at the moment.”
Ms Mottershead echoed these comments and added that from her perspective, there are three “immediate” things to focus on in terms of emerging tech: clients, capability, and organisations utilising the tech they already have.
“Firstly, what do your clients need then? It is about the tech, but it’s looking at what you’ve got, and I think we’re seeing a lot of products now really being developed to help almost enhance and expand what’s already there versus buying a lot of new technology. So, I think look at what you’ve got and see if that can answer the question,” she said.
“And then, last of all, do you actually have the capabilities to be able to use this technology and deliver the products or the services or the solutions that you need? So, for me, they’re the three buckets, and there’s lots of questions within each of those buckets.”
Legal education has, therefore, grown substantially around legal tech – something Ms Mottershead said was “absolutely phenomenal”.
“If we’ve got primary school kids, which we have starting to dabble with AI and products like ChatGPT and otherwise, just imagine how much that’s going to impact not just high school, but university, much less what the expectations will be when folks hit practice. I think in terms of law schools, if we look at that just for one second, we’re going to see increasingly, much less emphasis on things. Like tasks and transactions and much more emphasis on what I would call the human skills and much less emphasis on summative evaluation,” she explained.
“And much more emphasis on formation or development or readiness assessment. We’re going to see less and less about what tasks can you do and what are your benchmarks around certain capabilities, and much more around how do we create a customised map really for you to be able to develop the sort of skills that you need?
“I think it will mean, or should mean, that people, once they have those capabilities, will also be ready for advancement. So, it won’t be based on seniority, it won’t be based on gender. It’s a really broad spectrum, and it’s going to have really big impacts. But what I would say to you in a nutshell is that legal education is about to be disrupted in a way we have never, ever seen before across the board, from law school all the way through to CPD.”
Developing these skills among junior lawyers is something many BigLaw firms are also focusing on – with G+T launching an entire capability framework around innovation and legal tech.
“We recognise that they will have to engage with technology on a day-to-day basis and think about continuous improvement and how they work with the client design thinking. And then added to that all those additional skills around empathy and leadership, which are becoming even more critical as the technology advances. I think most organisations such as ours, and certainly we are absolutely committed to providing robust training and opportunity and then obviously that hands-on opportunity as well, because you don’t learn unless you engage in experimentation and having that mindset,” Ms Sandler explained.
“We might do things, they might work, they might not work, but that’s all part of the process, and we don’t need to be very fearful of that. So, there’s definitely an expectation from our lawyers, but also a commitment from us as a law firm to support our lawyers and to develop the skills because we recognise this is what’s going to make us the best law firm going. You know, if we take it from the client lens, we know our clients are all focused on this, so we absolutely need to invest in.”
Tech will also be an important factor within value composition in 2024, Ms Mottershead concluded.
“There’s an internal value to what the AI can do, which is a lot around business practices, so it is around efficiencies and insights and accessibility and scale. But the external part, to me, is it’s focusing us on all of the things that most of us went to law school for. And that is actually how do we serve the client better, how do we customise those services, how do we make things available to them in a self-serve capacity so they don’t have to ask us questions and they can just get access to it?” she added.
“And how do we focus more on that trusted advisor role? So, I think it’s a reassessment of value. Our value will be measured increasingly by our creativity and our ability to service our clients as closely to their needs and expectations as we possibly can. This technology places us in the box seat to be able to do that better than we’ve ever done it before.”
NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here: