We were back in Los Angeles on February 22nd for another great legal tech event, hosted by Dentons. We had a great panel who had a lot of interesting ideas about the future of technology in law, and how tech is changing the role of the in-house counsel. Technology is an inexorable part of everyday life, and as such attorneys need to be familiar with it in order to not only address the emerging legal issues that can arise from technology, but also to protect their clients' information. But there is that familiar tension between lawyers and technology as attorneys worry about machines one day replacing them. The role of attorneys continues to change and adapt as in-house counsel and in-house legal departments become more and more prevalent at big corporations. The interaction between business and legal serves as a positive to the case for the continued existence of the human lawyer, as human relationships and judgment can't be replicated or replaced by machines.
One hindrance to change in the legal industry could be the inability of in-house legal departments to press law firms to change the way they do business. Part of the issue is that in-house counsel more often than not came from the law firm world, and doesn't necessarily see the need to change that model. The law firm model is set up for lawyers by lawyers, so the push for change will have to come from in-house counsel who are working under the imperative to reduce costs and increase efficiency. And more and more in-house legal departments are starting to implementing technological changes spurred on by younger and more technologically adept attorneys.
What does it mean for an attorney to be tech savvy? No one would expect that there'll be a day when attorneys are able to code. But the smart attorney is one who can develop an understanding of the basics of what is involved with the technology, and has the insight to hire smart, technologically proficient people to build or implement the tools for them. They cultivate relationships with their own tech gurus in house to get them on their side and to have someone to consult when they don't have the answers to a tech question. More than anything, they have to be forward looking and ready to adapt to the changes in technology and business. Not only will tech provide us with new legal frontiers that need to be dealt with, but changes in our society and economy will fundamentally alter how people interact with lawyers. The only way for the law to move forward and for law practices to survive is to adapt and change their rules to let technologists hold leadership positions at law firms in order to move the profession forward.
You can watch the full event here.