A version of this article was originally published on jaimiefield.com and has been reprinted with permission.
The headlines read:
- “Your next lawyer could be a machine”
- “JP Morgan Software Does In Seconds What Lawyers Took 360,000 Hours”
- H&R Block Shows How Automation Could Change The Legal Profession
And this is just in the last few months or so.
Are you sufficiently scared? Are you worried that machines may take your job? Do you have visions of that cyborg who looks suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger will be sitting at your desk speaking to clients? A cyborg who says to the client “I’ll be back.”?
“If I could offer one reliable way to help speed along this adjustment, it would be this: Stop asking whether “AI will take away lawyers’ jobs.” Stop asking what AI will do to, or for, the legal profession. Stop thinking about AI from the perspective of the lawyer altogether and start thinking about it from the perspective of the client.”
There will always be change, not only in the legal world but in every aspect of your life. Think about it. We could be living as cavemen and women to this day if there wasn’t change (and personally, I think that much animal print is tacky – a little goes a long way).
Over the course of history, each step of change is greeted as both fear inducing by some and exciting to others. Did you know that fear and excitement are actually, physiologically, the same? It is just the way you interpret the information you are receiving at that moment. With fear we tend to hold our breaths.
“Fear is just excitement without breath” – Robert Heller
And realize that technology is not out to hurt us (at least not from the Terminator standpoint, yet). Technology has only helped us to accomplish things better and faster over the years – from horse drawn carriages to cars; from wood burning stoves to gas stoves to electric ranges to microwave ovens; from abacuses to calculators to computers.
And, for those of us who are lawyers who remember the old days, from Shepardizing and Blue Book Citations to Westlaw and Lexis Nexis to whatever the next iteration of research will be, technology has helped us shorten the amount of time it took to find the information we need to help our clients.
Which brings me to the next point –
As Jordan Furlong wrote, you have to begin thinking from the client’s perspective. However, this will entail skills that many lawyers aren’t using to their full advantage at this time. In fact, what is going to become most important in the face of the technological changes that are occurring in law firms is a lawyer’s “soft skills”.
“…a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one’s relationships in a milieu. These skills can include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits.”
All of this is collectively known as Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ).
For 15 years of training lawyers in Rainmaking skills, I have taught both the “hard skills” – the “how-to” of marketing your services using various techniques and tactics – and the “soft skills.” I have asked you to stop thinking about you, and start thinking about what keeps your clients up at night. I’ve asked you to learn how to listen intently to your clients. I’ve even asked you to communicate more effectively with your clients and be more responsive.
Most people think of Emotional Intelligence as being innate. That you are either born with this ability or you are not. Thankfully, this is not true. Skills are defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as:
- Facility or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience,
- A developed talent or ability.
As much as AI will change the how lawyers practice, it cannot change the why there are lawyers in the first place.
The reason there are lawyers is because there are laws, rights and freedoms to be protected. Whether they are commercial or personal issues, lawyers need to provide support and counsel to people. And this is true whether you are a solo practitioner or a managing partner of an AmLaw 50 firm.
Regardless of how much technology will advance the practice of law, we are still in a people business.
Learning to connect, to create relationships, to use the soft skills that we have put aside in an effort to maximize the efficiency of the hard skills that can, have and will be replaced by AI (like research, document review, brief and contract writing) will become paramount in a lawyer’s life.
Learn to do it now.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.