Never mind Latin, do you speak New Law? To stay relevant in the legal world you need to know your AI, from your LPO, ALSP and IG* – A language that I’m guessing wasn’t part of your law degree unless you graduated last year from a South African law school I don’t know about. While the majority of states in the US recognise that a duty of technology competence is part of the professional rules of conduct for lawyers, we’re a long way off from this in South Africa. In 2016 when asked to present on the Future of Law to a major South African university, I accepted their offer of a projector to show my powerpoint presentation, only to be directed to an overhead projector when I arrived. Enough said.
So, let’s agree that it’s not because of any state mandates that you’re going to be upping your technological game – you’ll do it because you don’t want to be like the Babyboomer senior partners in 2010 who still had their secretaries print out all their emails. But not only do you need to speak New Law, you also need a deep understanding of what disruptive innovation in your legal space looks like, and is it purely technology-driven? Articles about the future of law often speak only to technological development. We’re understandably excited that computers can do the mind-numbing work of discovery! That apps can tell clients wherein the pipeline their matter is, instead of ridiculous and unnecessary phone calls and emails requesting updates on progress. Whether you’re a sole practitioner looking to up your daily quota of billable hours (the average lawyer working an 8 hour day spends 6 of those on non-billable tasks); a Big Firm partner advising multinationals on cybersecurity threats and protection of personal information; or you’re a New Law startup developing online divorce proceedings or an app that increases access to justice (making you a “tech for A2J advocate”): technology is playing a major role in the future of law.
Yet as we up the AI ante, there is one thing that 99.9% of articles about the future of law neglect to mention. In a profession facing a tripartite crisis of high levels of public dissatisfaction, rocketing levels of job dissatisfaction with concomitant depression and substance abuse, and increasing complaints of lawyer aggression and incivility – is technology really going to solve the humanitarian crisis in the law?
What is missing is the human relationship with technology and the acknowledgement that technology can only perform at the level of consciousness of the person using it. Yup, I just snuck that most unlawyerly word “consciousness” in there. It is your level of consciousness which will dictate whether the technology you develop and/or use is ultimately advantageous to the well-being of your clients, society and the planet or just another way to get more things done faster. Living in this time of unprecedented technological acceleration requires us to interrogate the benefits and the potential downfalls of automation. Technology doesn’t just save us time. It changes the nature and the meaning of the tasks it performs. There is as much creative power latent in technology as there is destructive power. Technology allows us to massacre rainforests daily, destroy the seabed permanently with house-sized underwater mining bulldozers; and raise chickens that have never seen the light of day nor their mother hen thanks to incubation and feeding technologies. If we’re not mindful, technology will have similarly destructive and dehumanizing effects on our already traumatised clients.
So, here’s a word of caution. As you learn about the latest tech developments that could take your practice to the next level, I urge you to think carefully about what technology you want to introduce to your practice and what purpose it will serve within the greater context of the role you believe you play as a lawyer.
Along with 1000’s of lawyers and professors and judges in the worldwide Integrative Law Movement, I believe lawyers are healers of conflict. I believe we are peacemakers. I believe that conflict is entirely natural and that the highest aspiration of a lawyer is to guide clients through conflict transformation. I believe we are charged with healing breaches in the social fabric**. And I am deeply excited that there is an increasing number of lawyers operating from a world-centric, rather than egocentric consciousness who sense the enormous responsibility of lawyers globally to facilitate the emergence of a healthier legal system. Don’t think that we’re just a bunch of tree-saving hippy lawyers, some of us are also running ALSPs or legal tech startups. The difference in our use of technology is that we’re not just striving to be technologically competent, we’re striving to be technologically conscious.
Keen to know more? The best resource is Lawyers as Changemakers by J Kim Wright or look up Integrative Law.
* Yup I had to Google this one too. It’s Information Governance.
**This phrase was used by Robert Benham, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia.
About the Author: Amanda Lamond, Director of the Centre for Integrative Law
Amanda Lamond is the director of the Centre for Integrative Law, a consultancy for emergent thinking in the practice of law, and founder of WOLELA, Women Leading in Law. Through consulting, facilitating, speaking, designing courses, coaching and writing she brings a multidisciplinary approach to changing the legal systems. Amanda is deeply committed to supporting the global Integrative Law Movement, a movement of thousands of legal professionals pioneering new methods of practising law, new ways of viewing the role of a lawyer and new ways to restore humanity to the legal system.