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The future of law and what it means for legal professionals

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When we think about the future of law it’s easy to get distracted by big concepts, shiny new technology products and heated debates centred around the ‘death’ of law firms as we know them. But these things don’t always address what the future means for us as individuals in the industry. Helen Libson, Peerpoint Global Engagement Manager, looks at three key areas and how they will be impacted by changes in our industry.

Earlier in the year, we took part in the Women in Law Summit in London, where I co-hosted a session on ‘the future of law’ alongside Alexandra Gladwell, a senior commercial litigation lawyer and Peerpoint consultant.

The session focussed on three key areas and how they will be impacted by changes in our industry. Our findings from the Future for Legal Talent report provided the backdrop for answering the questions and shed light on how lawyers feel about the future.

As legal professionals, how will we work in the future?

As legal professionals, we’ll work very differently. We found that 83% of the respondents to our survey believe that lawyers starting out today will have a very different career experience to those who started 5-10 years ago. 

Technology has facilitated significant changes in how we work, from cutting down processes to enabling remote working. As it advances and accelerates in our businesses we’ll also see the shape of teams significantly change which will mean a greater diversity of disciplines and roles working together. 

Consulting as a career path is becoming more mainstream. Over 40% of the lawyers we surveyed said they’d considered consulting as a career and we’ve seen a rapid rise globally in clients seeking consultants, which demonstrates that relationship and resourcing structures are changing for both the employee and employer.

In addition, flexible working has been hugely beneficial for women but it’s interesting to see the gradual acceptability for men to also work this way. This is where we’ll see a positive impact for gender equality when both men and women are able to balance commitments and responsibilities more equally.

What skills will we need to stay ahead?

Broadening our skill sets beyond the traditional technical capabilities will help us stay ahead. 84% of those we spoke to agreed they would need new skills for the future but only 30% currently felt prepared for them. Although businesses will catch up with training, the onus will be on individuals to develop themselves.

Technological skills, a stronger personal brand, and greater commercial awareness were also at the top of the list. Where technology is concerned, it’s more about being comfortable with it, rather than needing to be competent at using certain products or working with complex data.

Technical ability amongst peers is mostly identical so the key thing is how individuals can differentiate themselves. As teams diversify and people move between organisations it will become key to not only identify and build on skill sets but also market and communicate them.

What will success look like for lawyers in the future?

Work-life balance came out as the top marker of what success looked like for respondents to our survey, beating ‘a well-paid position’ and ‘a senior position’. There was a fractional difference between men and women identifying work-life balance as the top marker of success. In fact, nearly all the questions relating to motivations and ambition had similar results between men and women, which shows a shift not only in attitudes across the industry but also an evolution for both men and women in terms of priorities. 

It’s important for businesses to think about what this work-life balance really means for their people before deciding whether it’s something they can deliver, as it stretches far beyond the rigid confines of ‘going part-time’. At Peerpoint we see so many definitions of what balance looks like for individuals and sometimes it can be more straightforward for businesses to achieve than they imagine. 

By thinking about what success means to each of us, we’re more likely to be able to direct our careers in a more fulfilling way. 

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the legal industry. The possibilities, in terms of roles and evolving non-linear pathways, make it increasingly realistic to pursue, shape and achieve personal fulfilment. It’s important we make the most of these changes to create a new and more dynamic future for our industry. 

To find out more about any of the issues in this article please contact Helen Libson. You can also download a copy of The Future for Legal Talent report here.