Society is fast evolving, while novel breakthroughs in technology have revolutionized the nature of work and accelerated the pace of work at the global marketplace, at the same time, it has made telling inroads into the demand for lawyers and legal services at law firms. We take a look at 4 of those global trends likely to affect lawyers and law firms in the present age and beyond.
(1) Technological advancement
As society has evolved so has modern day technology. The legal profession has certainly not been left out in this. Recent innovations in technology have birthed legal software’s that can now do some of the work lawyers do. The rise of these software’s have made inroads into the demand for the lawyer’s legal services. Again the rise of the internet has presented other challenges to lawyers too, as clients can now access the wealth of legal information been touted by specious law websites. The rise of legal forms websites have not helped either. On the other hand, we are also witnessing new AI engineering which has culminated in the rise of robot attorneys equipped to rival lawyers in the provision of core legal services.
(2) Legal outsourcing
The trend today is legal process outsourcing (LPO). A process where law firms, lawyers and clients outsource legal work to cheap legal markets in the world especially to places like India. This is viewed as the cheaper alternative to the higher legal costs that would be incurred hiring a professional lawyer. With legal process outsourcing, legal services consumers can now enlist the services of non-lawyers, mainly paralegals who have received training in legal matters and perform tasks requiring knowledge of the law. Paralegals do pretty much everything lawyers do, from drafting pleadings, gathering evidence, conducting investigations, contacting expert witnesses to document review.
All this can be done at the click of a button via e-mail. The legal job market has taken a real hit in legal service demand as a result.
Globalization has integrated the economies of the world in such a way that it has removed the barriers to mobility of labor.
As a result, the mobility of labor has gone transnational allowing skilled professionals to move abroad to already saturated job markets. That should explain the rationale behind Brexit. In America for instance, certain jurisdictions welcome foreign lawyers with open arms to practice law without taking account of the saturated US legal job market where the supply of legal services far outweighs its demand and where it is difficult for lawyers to secure jobs at law firms.
This is nothing new to lawyers in litigation. It involves the process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured and searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal matter. With E-discovery, lawyers can tender electronic data as evidence in support of their arguments. In Nigeria, this is aptly provided for under section 84 of the Evidence Act, 2011, which allows for the admission of electronic evidence in court proceedings.
E-discovery poses challenges to the practice of law in the sense of data overload. Each day technologies emerge with capacities for data storage and this has led to an explosion in the volume of data lawyers have to deal with. Lawyers are finding it excruciating to effectively analyze the overload of data at their disposal and then decide which ones are relevant to their argument. Even where they might have succeeded in doing this, they might yet find the content of the data unreadable due to their technical language. In the same vein, they may yet find the process of gathering electronic data quite expensive.
The above 4 global trends will likely not disappear in the near future so lawyers and law firms will need to find a way to buck these trends as that is the only way we can continue to stay in the business.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LL.B from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
To get in touch, follow him on social media.