On March 6th, 2019, the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ), in partnership with Ryerson University’s Law and Business Student Association (LBSA), hosted a panel discussion on 21st Century Law. Moderated by LIZ’s Startup Experience Coordinator Nafis Ahmed, it featured a group of legal professionals from diverse backgrounds, including Sean Bernstein, Co-Founder at MinuteBox; Kathleen Killin, Legal Automation Consultant at Thomson Reuters; and Kate Simpson, National Director at Bennett Jones LLP.
The panelists engaged an audience of Ryerson students, exploring the question “what does the future of law look like?” They shared their own experience and advice, and answered questions during a Q&A period. Below are some of the key insights from the conversation.
Implementing Innovative Practices
The practice of 21st century law involves leveraging technology and innovative approaches to engage with clients and deliver legal services efficiently. For many, however, it can be a challenge to keep up with the evolving tools available in the market. For lawyers, the ability to adapt is vital. Readiness for change requires legal professionals to develop the complementary skills that are needed for success in the 21st century.
Current and forthcoming generations of lawyers are ‘digital natives’, having been immersed from a young age in a technological world, in which computers and internet tools are the norm. These generations may more comfortably adapt their practices to benefit from all the possibilities that innovation brings to the legal sector. To fully activate their potential, the panelists suggested, law schools and law firms would do well to step up and integrate technology training into and alongside traditional legal education.
Expectations for Future Lawyers
Empathy and leadership are necessary skills that a 21st century lawyer is expected to possess. To be successful, lawyers working in the 21st century must demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills, use empathy to create meaningful connections, and be able to adapt to new methods.
The panelists mentioned the concept of the “T-shaped lawyer” as an example. Those who thrive in the 21st century legal industry have a deep understanding of an area of law, which is complimented by an additional set of skills and abilities coming from diverse disciplines. This well-rounded professional is able to provide a unique approach to their practice.
Beyond Technology Buzzwords
Emerging legal technologies, including those falling under the umbrellas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain need not be seen as a threat. Instead, the experts explained, 21st century lawyers could understand them as an opportunity to improve their practice and better their delivery of legal services.
With more access to legal support through technological means, consumers are empowered to choose a mode of service delivery that suits their wants and needs.
Emerging generations of lawyers are leveraging technology to absorb the repetitive aspects of their work. Their openness to technology and innovation improves their efficiency, and frees up time for the qualitative work of relationship building and connecting with clients. These benefits underscore how fundamental it is to build an awareness of innovative processes and technology in the legal industry.