With the AIJA annual congress in August fast approaching, Orsolya Görgényi, President of AIJA and Partner at SZECSKAY Attorneys at Law in Hungary, has highlighted the challenges facing the profession. Speaking at a conference on Innovative Legal Services in Prague organized by Económia, Ms. Görgényi told participants not to “spend valuable time on tasks that can be better performed by software.”
A lawyers' highest value today is “not document production or tasks that can be replaced by Artificial Intelligence,” she said, but rather “strategic planning, problem solving and exercising professional judgment.”
According to Ms. Görgényi, lawyers tend to have three personal characteristics which make it particularly challenging to lead, change and innovate, namely: a sceptical mindset - an ‘occupational hazard’ as she put it; perfectionism - which, according to her, makes lawyers bad at the ‘game of trial and error', which would be so important for innovation; and being autonomous. However, lawyers will increasingly have to fight against these natural tendencies to become experts of networking, collaboration and innovation.
“Some of the challenges can be overcome only if we join forces,” she said. “Disruptive technology does not improve an established technology, but supersedes it, replaces it. Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we think, the way we do business and the way we interact with clients. Innovation in the provision of legal services is of vital importance for law firms who are serious about their clients' expectations and their own future.”
Just as document production has become automated or outsourced, so Artificial Intelligence will replace certain tasks performed by lawyers. Yet most law firms are yet to accept this new reality. Legal services are going to become even more standardized, while the majority of legal services will be (and many already are) commodity or routine work. Only a small number of legal matters will be considered bespoke.
In such a climate, how will law firms train – or pay for – the young lawyers coming through? General counsels are moving more work in-house or looking to ‘push down’ work to cheaper law firms instead of negotiating lower prices, said Ms. Görgényi. Clients' needs can be met by more competitive alternative service and online providers who are often unregulated but more flexible.
One of the keys to tackling these threats, said Ms. Görgényi, is innovation. The legal industry spends less than 1% of the gross revenue on research and development, and less than 3% on marketing – so there is a lot of space for improvement! She advocated bringing non-lawyers into firms to instil disruptive, entrepreneurial thinking: “We cannot avoid facing the issue of multi-disciplinary partnerships, allowing non-lawyers to become partners, or employing non-lawyers to be part of providing services to the clients.”
AIJA members are encouraged to fill in the online survey - soon to be launched - on the future of the legal profession fielded together with the CCBE (The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe).
Due to the challenges of innovation and the increased globalization, lawyers will need an even better network with other lawyers both locally and internationally. The need for cooperation among lawyers across borders has never been more important. “It is essential to obtain new skills and adapt ourselves to the new legal and business environment, and to establish a competent network of resources,” as Ms. Görgényi said.
Getting involved with AIJA helps with these skills, and the upcoming annual AIJA Congress taking place from August 23 to 27 in Munich provides a unique platform for networking, learning and sharing. To learn more about the 54th International Young Lawyers’ Congress, visit: http://munich.aija.org/.