President, American Association of Law Libraries
The legal industry is facing a dramatic period of evolution, driven by universal realities that include a new generation, an influx of advanced tech and the rise of big data and artificial intelligence.
The millennial factor
We aren’t our grandfather’s legal consumers, nor are we conducting business as our grandfathers did. With more than 75 million millennials participating in the U.S. economy, they make up a major percentage of legal consumers and professionals alike. These millennial legal consumers conduct diligent online research, eschew the status quo of traditional billing practices and place a high value on client service. Word-of-mouth referrals, advertising and an impressive case history aren’t enough to engage these emerging legal consumers. Today’s legal professionals know this and compete for business accordingly.
The tech horizon
Putting aside social media and the death of the fax machine, technology hasn’t just changed how we talk about the law or promote it, but how law is practiced. Software and online platforms have given us endless databases rich in information, e-filing, automated document drafting and collaboration, document management tools and, a mobile app for just about everything. This change drove the American Bar Association in 2012 to update its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to ensure legal professionals maintain certain tech competencies to efficiently and effectively practice law.
Finally, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to shape how business is done for just about everyone. According to Richard M. Jost, director of the Law Librarianship Program at the University of Washington Information School and a member of the American Association of Law Libraries, law librarians and other legal researchers must now have advanced tech skills. This includes experience with technology development, knowledge management, information architecture, UX and UI, data visualization and data analytics. Similarly, attorneys and paralegals entering today’s legal workforce are required to have a working knowledge of today’s vast online legal research tools. They must also be able to prioritize data and use AI to effectively sift through an endless and expanding trove of information.
Driven by technology and generational changes, the field of law must continue to change as well.