Sam Moore, Innovation Manager with Burness Paull and Scotland’s first Accredited Legal Technologist, joins Nathan Corr, Legal Technology Rep at the University of Aberdeen’s student law society to discuss how best to engage with the lawyers of tomorrow, to promote knowledge and foster enthusiasm for change.
Nathan: How would you say that legal tech and innovation has changed the typical work of a trainee in the last 10 years?
Sam: I was a trainee myself 10 years ago, and whilst the nature of the work hasn’t changed fundamentally, there have been big changes in how the work gets done. For example, the rise of document automation means that trainees are increasingly less exposed to precedents and document styles in a ‘fill in the blanks’ way, and more exposed to answering a questionnaire to generate v1 of a document. There has also been a significant change in how our Court systems deal with electronic documents – entirely paper Court processes are now becoming fairly rare, with more emphasis being placed on e-bundles. And of course the ways in which clients want to engage with their lawyers has changed a great deal – email is far more common than it used to be, and we’re seeing more and more technology coming to the market involving client collaboration platforms.
Nathan: Will the lawyers of tomorrow need to know how to code, or be skilled in data science?
Sam: I’ve never believed that teaching lawyers to code is the way forward – we have plenty of talented coders in the UK already, we should be encouraging more of them to join the legal sector rather than trying to replicate their skill sets. Data is perhaps another matter – we don’t have quite so many data scientists around yet, so there could be an argument for firms to develop their own talent in this area. Ultimately though, I don’t think we’ll ever need lawyers to become experts in either, instead we will need lawyers to possess a basic grasp of what the external experts are talking about and how to apply that to our own processes.
Nathan: How important do you think it is for students to learn about legal tech, and how can we best keep up to date with developments?
Sam: I think it’s extremely important, because more than anyone else it’s you current law students whose world will be changing the most during the course of your careers. Following current news sources like Artificial Lawyer and Legal IT Insider would be a good start. After that, getting involved in social media and finding active role models to follow is also very helpful – just remember that there’s a lot of hype out there. A healthy dash of scepticism is no bad thing!
Nathan: Should students be worried about AI and ‘robo-lawyers’ taking their jobs, or should we be excited to take advantage of new technologies?
Sam: The threat of ‘robo-lawyers’ has been very overblown – I don’t expect significant job losses in the immediate future, mostly because so few people currently engage with lawyers when they really should. This is frequently an issue of cost, but as tech brings down the cost of access to legal services the pool of clients seeking support will be growing. What might be true however is that some areas of low complexity, routine legal services will become increasingly automated and commoditised. At that point, it’s a question of re-deployment into other areas of the law, and how willing you are to engage with that.
Sam: Now if I could ask you a few questions in return, what was the thinking behind creating the post of ‘Legal Tech Rep’ at the University of Aberdeen Law Society, and what drew you to it?
Nathan: When I asked my fellow students about their thoughts on legal tech and how they think it will impact our future, the general response was “ummm… computers?” This struck me as an obvious issue. My solution to this knowledge deficiency was to host a series of ‘Legal Tech Insight Evenings’, for students and lecturers alike. The aim of those evenings was to inform and prepare the next generation of lawyers for the next chapter of the legal services industry - a chapter where technology is a fundamental driving force of change. With that, I pitched the idea for the Legal Tech Insight Evening to the Law Society at the University who got on-board immediately. I suggested creating the position of 'Legal Tech Rep' initially to run this event, and more in the future. I was then elected into that position. Speaking to the Law School, they told me they are currently looking into ways of preparing our students for the future of the legal industry with legal tech. After pitching my event idea to the faculty, they gave me their full support for running and promoting the event.
Sam: If you could convince all law schools to teach legal tech to their law students, are there any technologies or concepts in particular would you want to see covered?
Nathan: I would start with educating LLB students on general concepts of innovation and technology, to make them aware of the changes in the industry and the systems driving these changes. Some specific examples could be how data science and AI can be used in document review processes. This would make LLB students more aware of legal technology, and the work of lawyers is changing. I would then like to see this general knowledge expanded during the Diploma by introducing hands-on training using some real systems commonly used by law firms, to prepare students for day one of their traineeships. The Diploma has always been about preparing students for the beginning of their career in the legal services industry, it only makes sense that they are prepared for legal technology and innovation in the new legal services industry. The first time they see these modern systems ideally wouldn’t be during their traineeships.
Sam will be speaking at the Law Society of Scotland’s Annual Conference on 25 October in Edinburgh, where you can find him in the afternoon panel session ‘Scotland and Legal Tech’. Find out more about the conference and book your place.