The future of the legal profession - it's now
15 April 2019
by Wiebe de Vries, AIJA Immediate Past President 2018/2019
The future is now for the legal profession. With automation, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the rise of non-lawyers in the legal profession and the generational shift in the workforce, change is happening faster than in the past. While it’s not without challenges, law firms are slowly forging a path of their own in this rapidly evolving world.
Demystifying technology for lawyers
Many qualified experts feel that technology would replace most of today’s workforce, including lawyers. But none of these experts have come up with a widely accepted replacement to date. The approach to technology should however be different, more positive. Let’s not fear that technology could eventually replace us but look proactively at how we can integrate it into our business model.
As lawyers, we should be looking at how to make good use of it to improve our services and build trust with clients. Our solutions are no longer assessed based on our legal expertise only, but more broadly. Clients expect a greater understanding of their business, faster response time and efficiency. Often the legal aspects are only a part of the solution to clients while the rest doesn’t even involve legal knowledge. We are shifting from the day-to-day practice of law to a more business-oriented model where legal services are profoundly embedded in the business of clients. The good news: technology can help with this shift.
Even better: lawyers start to develop a positive attitude towards technology. But we’re in for the long haul. The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA), with the help of the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE), conducted a survey among international lawyers between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. The findings reveal that compared to 2016, lawyers are less fearful of technology replacing them (decrease of 43%). They also show that almost half of all respondents (42%) are confident that their firms are taking the necessary measures to integrate tech such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools, automation or the cloud into their workflow. However, implementation of technology remains still low.
So, we could say that law firms know what they need to do. And lawyers are most definitely willing to embrace technology. But again, we don’t know yet how to do it. From this perspective, technology providers could do more for the legal profession. And there are plenty of opportunities. According to the same survey, only 3% of respondents agree that the training of lawyers is sufficiently adapting to the changing landscape of the legal market. More training seems required to adapt accordingly and ensure that lawyers know how to use the latest innovations in technology to the benefit of their clients and business.
Working with other legal service providers
As the market for technology-enabled innovations continues to grow, so does the market for non-traditional legal service providers. 86% of lawyers see this as a threat to their profession and believe that firms are more likely to employ non-lawyers to service clients in the name of cost-efficiency and making use of new technologies, according to the survey.
This can be in fact an opportunity to expand the legal service markets of our law firms. The same for interdisciplinary partnerships. There is untapped potential there. Law firms should look more at the industries that are already leading the digital revolution.
Unlocking the mystery of millennials
Another driving force of change in the legal profession is the generational shift in the workplace. Much more impatient, more demanding and keener for flexibility, millennials are here to stay. By 2025, they will account for 75% of the global workforce according to global research. Millennials will soon take over leadership positions and partnerships in law firms. But then how can law firms best manage millennials, a tech-savvy and dynamic generation?
This younger generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with digital technologies. They usually seek organisations that foster innovation, develop their skills and make a positive contribution to society. These features are generally difficult to manage in law firms which are often quite heavily driven by hierarchy.
It was a very different environment in 2005 when I started. In my early days as a lawyer, hierarchy, paperwork, and – maybe - a predominant fear for change and innovation were driving the organisational structure. A four-eyes principle meant that four eyes had to read the same piece of paper and even as a trainee, we needed to sign off on every piece of (printed) e-mail, letter and fax that crossed our desks.
Happily, times have changed. We see law firms slowly but surely adapting to the latest innovation trends in the workplace. The younger generation can be a huge opportunity in this evolution process. Millennials can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas which can have a positive impact on the business and the relationship with clients.
Senior-level lawyers are here to stay for a little while, too. This is why, firms should be looking for ways to ensure collaboration between the generations and create a space for their younger lawyers to grow. Reverse mentoring, for instance, can facilitate a better understanding between the generations. Younger lawyers and their more seasoned colleagues can teach one another about the business and practice of law. This is how law firms can predict the likes, dislikes, ways of working of the next generations and ensure a thriving work environment for all their employees, regardless of their age. However, it seems that it will take some more work for law firms to adequately equip themselves for the younger generation, through such orientation and mentoring programmes or even more flexible working conditions. But I believe that we will eventually get there.
It probably goes without saying that the traditional law firm won’t stand a chance against the numerous changes in the legal profession: boutique firms allow their employees to have access to stellar legal tech innovations on a subscription now and can compete with global firms. The need for big teams to perform a due diligence or discovery is no longer there, which still is one of the driving elements of a traditional law firm business model. What is sure, firms that take a long-term perspective and proactively seek opportunities to embrace innovation will ensure their profitability and sustainability of their business in the future, both towards their clients and their future leadership. As we are so used to solving challenges for our clients, it’s now our turn to solve our own and create a more sustainable future for our profession.
AIJA calls for release of Iranian human rights lawyer and defender
15 April 2019
Prominent human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes following two unfair trials. The charges against Mrs Sotoudeh stem solely from her peaceful human rights work, including defending women’s rights and her outspoken opposition to Iran’s mandatory hijab (veiling) laws.
Mrs Sotoudeh had received the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors. She had previously spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In an open letter to His Excellency Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, AIJA joins the international community in urging Iran to respect and safeguard human rights and fulfil its mission to implement the law in accordance with international legal and human rights standards, in light of the recent detention of Mrs Sotoudeh.
In many countries, human rights defenders still face continuous and systematic threats and abuses by government authorities. This is part of a worrying pattern rapidly developing worldwide, and which ultimately undermines the long-term stability and sustainable development of our society. The international community must take immediate actions against this ongoing intimidation of human rights advocates and make a stronger, more compelling case for human rights and rule of law – both in Iran and around the world.
Show your support
To join the global campaign for her release, you can sign the following petitions:
- Amnesty International petition
- Conseil National des Barreaux (The French National Bar Council) petition
- Observatoire International des Avocats (The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger) petition
For more information, please contact AIJA's Human Rights Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Amnesty International, Centre for human rights in Iran
AIJA and INSOL EUROPE organise 2019 seminar on insolvency
11 April 2019
The legal sector will benefit from two industry perspectives under one roof at the AIJA – INSOL EUROPE joint insolvency seminar this year.
AIJA and INSOL EUROPE have joined forces to organise the seminar in Mallorca, from 13-15 June. The event will see lawyers and insolvency professionals offer multilateral views on the different issues lawyers, clients and insolvency experts can face during insolvency proceedings, under the theme ‘Make twilight a new dawn: defensive and offensive strategies in insolvency matters’.
Bringing AIJA together with INSOL EUROPE - which is the leading European organisation of professionals in insolvency, business reconstruction and recovery - is hopefully the start of a long-term collaboration. Through events, the two organisations can benefit from an invaluable platform where they can exchange on the complex area of cross-border insolvency together with their members who are highly knowledgeable about this area.
‘We’re very excited about the partnership between AIJA and INSOL EUROPE’s Young Members Group. It’s a natural synergy, as both organisations focus on helping young practitioners to network, learn and advance their careers. Mallorca will provide AIJA and INSOL EUROPE members with the opportunity to get to know each other better in a beautiful and relaxed setting, with plenty of occasions for discussion. Moving forward, we hope there will be other occasions where AIJA and INSOL EUROPE members can be brought together at our events’, say members of the AIJA Organising Committee Elaina Bailes (Stewarts), Armando Perna (Pozzi & Partners), and Philippe Sylvestre (Etude Max Mailliet).
On the schedule
Today’s world is a global marketplace, with international trade and foreign investments rapidly growing. This growth sees more and more companies developing global businesses with assets and capabilities in more than one country. Consequently, the insolvency and restructuring market has also become more international. In this era of globalisation, a lawyer with a multilateral approach to insolvency matters is able to offer the right advice to his clients, and turn crisis into opportunities or, at least, roll with the punches to limit the damage. Typically, national insolvency regulation also needs to be considered, as it’s generally internally oriented and can overlook what other regulations can provide, for instance in liquidation of assets. Against this backdrop, the seminar will seek to present tools for participants to set up the best strategies to approach insolvency from a different – and most importantly, international - perspective.
‘We opted for an academic programme including traditional panels and debates to encourage open discussions and an active participation of the audience. We’re confident that this format will shift the programme into a higher gear, with new and practical solutions to insolvency issues and plenty of international perspectives from our colleagues joining from all around the globe’, say INSOL EUROPE representatives Anne Bach (Görg Rechtsanwälte) and Georges-Louis Harang (Hoche Avocats).
Participants will be able to stay at the seminar venue, Blau Privilege PortoPetro Beach Resort & Spa, a seafront hotel close to the picturesque port of Porto Petro and the Mondrago Nature Reserve. The seminar will start with a welcome reception at the hotel on Thursday, 13 June. The social programme will also include a dinner at the Mhres Sea Club, a restaurant well known for its location and Mediterranean dining experience, on Friday, 14 June. An optional tour and a tapas dinner at the Winery José Luis Ferrer are foreseen for those staying until Saturday evening.
To find out more about the event and register, visit the dedicated webpage. Early bird fees are available until 30 April. See you in Mallorca!