When most people think about the longevity of their professions, they tend to think that, one day, robots will probably replace them. That’s not inherently a bad thing, though. Blockchain, AI, and numerous other disruptive technologies are on the rise, so the amount of human labor required for a task is going to continually diminish.
That being said, in order to properly consider one’s future, one should look at both the threats and opportunities. In fact, the latter may even provide contingency plans to the former.
Let’s start by dealing with fear using our robot example.
Are robots going to replace lawyers?
No, but robots are going to repurpose lawyers. The truth of the matter is that software is getting to the point where it can perform tasks like document review far more efficiently than a human lawyer ever could. Furthermore, recent technology has enabled documents and contracts to become dynamic and more easily updated, in addition to becoming self-executable code. This means that they could effectively enforce some of their own terms. Ryan Finn talks more about that in this interview.
This does not, however, completely eradicate the need for lawyers. It simply means that the law will be more scalable and efficient. Systems like billable hours will likely be abandoned, and, in order to keep their edge, lawyers will need a basic understanding of how this new-fangled technology works. There would only be a reduction in the need for lawyers if this was the only field in which innovation was taking place — which it is not.
With the perpetual increase in the number of entrepreneurs, in-house demand will remain constant. Furthermore, there are emerging markets that were previously nonexistent (e.g., the fields of cryptocurrencies, space, and more). Sarah Stogner has expanded her legal work from just the fields of oil and gas to include the rising cannabis industry. As more states legalize the growth and sale of cannabis, there will be more regulations on the quantity, purpose, and packaging of the product.
Federally, it is still outlawed, but it is legal in many states — though to what degree it is allowed varies quite substantially. Moreover, in some states, local municipalities are allowed to introduce regulatory laws. This makes it a very complicated issue and, therefore, one that is in dire need of more lawyers. In this interview, Sarah explains that doing a little research and putting helpful information out there will draw cannabis entrepreneurs to you, giving you a foothold in an untapped market.
Lastly, we have quite an interesting fusion of law and wellness: the lawyer coach. Charlotte Smith works as a lawyer coach, helping lawyers break through negative mindsets. As she served her time as a lawyer, she saw the need for lawyers to have stronger personal mindsets and realized the immense ROI of lawyers who had clarity, maturity, and higher levels of emotional intelligence. She works on addressing prevalent issues such as perfectionism, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, as well as general and specific harmful mindsets. She teaches people that great is the enemy of the good and also highlights the distinction between catabolic and anabolic mindsets. Charlotte works to develop confident, competent leaders who are better equipped to do their jobs.
So, yes, the legal world is undergoing a revolution. Nevertheless, it is still standing and will not be going anywhere for a very long time — if ever.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.