A top intellectual property lawyer says that law students should seriously consider additional studies in technology.
“Law students should be seriously contemplating supplementing their degree in law with studies in computer programming, and maybe even an MBA,” said Shelston IP principal Matt Ward.
The call comes as technology, especially artificial intelligence, is able to complete more and more of what lawyers do from day to day.
“Without doubt there will always be a need for commercially oriented, business savvy legal advice but technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning will dramatically change the profile of tomorrow’s successful lawyer,” Ward said.
“It’s now up to the educators and students themselves to ensure they have the right set of skills to take them to the top of the legal profession. This will inherently mean being ready to drive the technological machine, rather than having it drive you out of a job.”
Shelston IP cites a recent study by McKinsey & Co that estimates 23% of lawyer time is automatable. Because of this, there will ultimately be fewer jobs for lawyers, a trend that’s already apparent in other fields.
“However, there will be opportunities for those lawyers with specialist computer and business skills to take the reins of the technological tools, and in doing so run practices that achieve the routine ‘heavy lifting’ work of large numbers of present day lawyers,” said Ward.
“Whilst it’s unlikely that any computer system will be able to support clients’ business goals with highly tailored advice, truly understanding the limits and possible applications of technology will allow savvy future lawyers to make the best possible use of such technology,” he continued.
To get ahead of the machines, the IP expert suggests lawyers have a more expansive skill set that enable them to do work that machines cannot.
“Whilst it’s unlikely that any computer system will be able to support clients’ business goals with highly tailored advice, truly understanding the limits and possible applications of technology will allow savvy future lawyers to make the best possible use of such technology,” Ward said.
He also noted that his law firm is already hiring talent with this in mind.
“Right now at Shelston IP, when screening candidates for entry level patent positions we’re actively seeking out graduates with the skills and knowledge to help design and implement future legal services technology platforms,” he said.
“Being in the patent business places us at a distinct advantage; those skills directly translate to our main game of providing quality technical advice to our clients in the high-technology space,” he added.
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