4 Trends Shaping Our Legal Future

From Above The Law:  By and

We need to retrain lawyers to be more open-minded not only to a non-traditional career path, but to build a community.

Trend 1: Golden Age of the in-house legal department

We are convinced that we are entering the golden era of the in-house legal department. There is a trend of large legal departments hiring junior lawyers, sometimes even straight out of law school. This would not have happened in the past. Law departments are also running a larger amount of internship programs, and are training law students to work in-house. All of this used to be done solely by law firms. In-house law departments are becoming much more sophisticated legal services consumers. They have also become much more sophisticated about fee arrangements and hiring or outsourcing decisions. They are adept at choosing whether to hire big, small, in the US, outside of the US – or to use a technology solution! The confluence of these changes is driving in-house legal department to lead the charge in an unprecedented way, and we suspect this will cause dramatic shifts in what has long been considered the “standard” lawyer career path.

Trend 2: Automation

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and various other automation methods are going to impact the way we practice law. While automation will not get rid of lawyers and replace the strategic value we provide, AI and automation trends have been automating and continue to automate e-discovery, contract review, knowledge management, compliance, and other routine practices. This means that attorneys will need to be true business partners, provide strategic legal and business advice, and lead initiatives. Great legal education will need resemble business school education, with case studies, leadership training, and active networking. The law school, law firm, and overall lawyer training approach and curriculum will have to dramatically change to train for the new type of lawyer.

 Trend 3: Rise of the legal operations professionals

Legal departments increasingly need to balance budgets, recruit and inspire personnel, collaborate with other professionals, analyze data, implement and maintain a variety of technology solutions, solve diversity and other social impact problems, and much more. This leads to the rise of the multi-disciplinary legal operations professionals, many of whom report directly to the GC, are senior level professionals, and play an important role in the company. Law will no longer be a profession where you shun math in order to read and write all day. While there will most definitely still be a lot of reading and writing, there will also be budgeting and data analysis in a way we haven’t seen before. Hiring will need to adjust to accommodate this wider range of skill sets, and law departments will need to provide a greater variety of training.

Trend 4: GC and lawyers as CEO’s and corporate board members.

GC’s are already used to keeping a bird’s-eye view of the business. Today’s GC’s are involved in all business functions and manage many business teams. It’s not uncommon for them to manage parts of or the entire human resources, cyber security, and business development departments. Instead of preventing disasters, fighting fires, and assessing risk, GC’s are making exciting business decisions, stirring progress, and leading innovation. We’re actually surprised GC’s aren’t more regularly considered for the CEO or board position — they are uniquely trained and positioned to succeed in these roles! This is something we see changing as GC’s become true business leaders rather than owning solely the legal function.

Disruptions require changing the traditional approach. The 4 trends we believe will reshape the legal department and lawyers of the future require rethinking how lawyers are taught and trained (including the litigation-driven Socratic method). We must value experiential learning more. We need to get rid of the notions that lawyers don’t do math — lawyers do everything! We will also need to retrain lawyers to be more open-minded not only to a non-traditional career path, but to build a community of lawyers and non-lawyers alike. After all, it’s not likely you’ll be able to meet the types of executives you need to build relationships with at a lawyers-only event. We’re excited to see these trends come to fruition as they mean lawyers will be recognized as true business leaders!

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