Do Lawyers and Law Students Have the Technical Skills to Meet the Needs of Future Legal Jobs?

Author:Monica Goyal
Date:June 29, 2017
 
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As technology is increasingly used within law practices to streamline legal processes and more efficiently deliver services to clients, an important question has arisen within legal professional and academic circles: Do lawyers and law students have the technical skills to meet the needs of future legal jobs?

If you have ever tried to innovate or introduce technologies to a law firm or to lawyers, then you know how challenging it can be to convince lawyers to use new technologies. Harder still is convincing them not revert to the old and outmoded way of doing things, but to persist in the face of what may be an initially steep learning curve: the problem of adoption

In the discussion surrounding the problem of adoption, one misconception stands out: that the problem of adoption is a factor of age within the profession. Senior industry professionals invariably believe that young new law school graduates are technologically proficient. These “digital natives”, as they have been termed, are tethered to their smart phones and easily and adeptly use apps such as Uber for ordering a ride, Tinder for dating, or SnapChat for social media engagement. It is, thus, not unreasonable that this new generation of law school students and lawyers are held out as bastions of hope for a new age of legal technology.

While not unreasonable, this assumption holds little truth; age does not appear to be a strong factor contributing to the problem of adoption. Young lawyers are not always open or motivated to train themselves on the use of legal technology applications or even basic applications such as MS Word or MS Excel. While mobile apps, such as those mentioned above, have simple interfaces and features designed to be intuitive, legal technology applications and productivity software does not. Further they usually have greater capabilities than those of the mobile apps mentioned above. However, few students ever have the opportunity or feel the need to engage with the full functionality of business applications, thus, never truly learn how to use them. Consequently, their understanding and use of technologies is often simplistic and fails to leverage tools and functionality for real-time savings as part of their legal practice.

This technological skills gap cannot be attributed to students alone. Even though almost all of the work lawyers perform today is done using digital tools, few law schools offer any type of substantive training in the use of technologies...

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