Legal technology has been around for a while.
It has transformed some legal operations and inspired professionals to keep searching for more innovative solutions. The legal industry is ripe with career opportunities for tech savvies who can use technology to aid lawyers with client work and with their internal procedures. Legal technologists are tech experts that seem to be in high demand nowadays.
In this article, I will discuss the characteristics and responsibilities of a legal technologist and the adjustments designed to ensure that this role meets the requirements of different stakeholders such as law firms and legal departments. I will present the career hurdles a legal technologist might face when working in law firms or corporate legal departments. In the end, I will try and predict how this job will evolve in the foreseeable future.
Lawyers are, by definition, multi-skilled: they must have a keen knowledge of the law, they should master time management, the power of persuasion, and the art of eloquence. When it comes to tech capabilities, though, their stack is often limited at Microsoft Word.
This paradox has been observed by many, and it is the premise for the ascent of a new breed of legal professionals at the frontiers between law and technology. They were symbolically called legal engineers.
Before going about paving the future, these pioneers might want to first find answers to some pressing questions such as: What legal process should we digitalise? Should we use existing technologies or create new ones from scratch? How to attenuate the community’s resistance towards this type of solution? Equally important, how to educate the general public into trusting this approach?
The interest in perfecting the legal industry is not new, but innovation, interdisciplinarity and human-centrism are elements that have only recently started being used. Relevant stakeholders have gradually understood that purely legal skills are necessary but no longer sufficient to ensure that lawyers provide legal services in a manner consistent with clients’ expectations, social needs and their own aspirations. The focus has shifted between skill-centred models, from I-shaped to T-shaped & +-shaped. The topic of current interest is the so-called Delta Model of Lawyer Competencies but, to be fair, rapid developments within the industry and beyond seem to indicate that this is also another, although important, stepping stone in the efforts to swiftly adapt this profession. That is why, for the scope of this article, we will focus on the Delta Model which, albeit built on the previous models, is nonetheless a pioneer in incorporating and giving equal weight to three categories of skills that, I dare say, are critical for lawyers’ success in today’s globalised society: substantive legal knowledge, business & operations (encompassing tech savviness, data analytics and project management) and personal effectiveness (including characteristics like entrepreneurial mindset, emotional intelligence and character). The beauty of this model resides not only in its plasticity but also in the vast spectrum of stakeholders benefiting from it, from individuals (such as law students and lawyers) to actual entities (law schools and organisations). Notwithstanding some concerns that all this skills-model hunt distracts us from real, more acute problems in the industry, the Delta Model managed to attract much attention and was generally hailed as innovative and thought provoking.