The colloquial definition of 'talent' is natural skill or ability. Forbes’ news piece, 'What Is Digital Legal Talent?' asserts that the term 'talent' lacks conventional meaning, which like the other digital transformation, is open-ended, with multi-interpretations and facets, and it is essential for individual and enterprise success.
It is often said in light humour that the only certainty in life is death, the devastating amount of taxes and the high demand for legal services. Legal talent-hiring has been a go-to resort for the legal industry in the wake of the excessive demand in the present times. The great resignation culminated in the efforts of the legal industry in the direction of upscaling and upgrading the talent with the latest technology trends.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the shift in the industry’s operations largely moved from office-bound to hybrid. Globally, the churn has been accepted and the move is said to be prevalent in times to come.
Raging war of talent
Forbes’ article on Digital Talent also emphasises upon global talent war across all the industries during the pandemic.
In March 2022, our article “Productivity race within the legal industry” discussed why war for talent is inevitable. One assertion included that while the legal industry sees constant growth amidst adversities, be it a recession or a global pandemic, the willingness to compensate innovation for the inclusion of the workforce has been the industry practice.
The diversity gap
The legal industry has viewed “talent” narrowly for a long time, segregating “lawyers” and “non-lawyers”. This prejudice doesn’t cease to exist. Bloomberg’s survey Legal Operations: Functions and Benefits reveal some stunning insights. Out of participating 429 firms, 82% believe can consist solely of licensed attorneys. Different practice areas, seniority levels, and firms are a “multidisciplinary” team for them.
Furthermore, the narrow view of “legal talent” is attributed to culture, education, and indoctrination legacy according to the Forbes article. Lack of vision in such a case affects the industry’s ability to attract, leverage, and retain the multidisciplinary talent essential to legal delivery services.
As the future of the legal industry is highly automated, it provides more pathways for high-performing paralegals and lawyers to fill legal operations positions. As paralegals are familiar with the specific technology that is being used, have pre-existing relationships and have a thorough understanding of the processes and business, they will be successful operations professionals according to Carl Morrison, Director of Legal Operations at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Memme Onwudiwe, the Founding Team member of Evisort and a lecturer at Harvard Law School, Lynn Ma, a legal extern at Tapjoy and legal fellow in AI at Evisort, in The Centre for Legal Innovation's (CLI) article.
Preparedness for future legal talent
In October 2021, our article on “Asia Pacific Law Schools prepare Tech Ready Lawyers” points to the pertinent question of next-gen legal professionals and their training. Tech-savvy professionals with digital skills at the forefront are desired and the need of the hour. Conventional legal education is slowly but steadily paving way for a more diverse and efficient legal workforce in the future, where the industry roles are not limited to lawyers but a team amalgamating law, management, tech, and processes.
Keeping in mind the future of the industry, schools are offering options for upskilling and upgrading, providing customisable legal education for the existing workforce through industry partnership. Also, with the help of a cross-disciplinary curriculum with industry partnership, schools are offering the best technology, science, and information systems that law students can complete while at the university.
Future is digital
The term digital legal talent encapsulates the essence to provide fast, affordable, efficient, predictable, cost-effective, transparent, data-backed, technology-enabled legal services and deliverables, solving problems and seizing opportunities.
Forbes’ enumerated several considerations for a digital legal function, a few are listed below:
- Cross-functional: The talent pool should comprise diverse roles ranging from computer science to management. The pool must be made unified by a common purpose, and they must be broadly construed to include business, tech skills, practical skills etc. The approach will produce divergent perspectives and produce holistic inputs to business decisions.
- Legal is a function: It has a broader role to play that includes collaborating with other businesses to create value and identify and mitigate risks. Digital legal talent should have this mindset and must challenge the existing paradigms.
- Cultural mindset: Lawyers must abandon their “lawyer and non-lawyer” mindset and accord allied legal professionals and para-professionals equal status as team members. This is an example of the cultural/mindset change that is creating the law’s growing “digital gap” with business.
- Agile approach: The entire legal function must speak the business language, and use business metrics, data analysis, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be in line with the customers’ objectives.
- Talent ecosystem: Talent is not limited to in-house manpower, contract employees, strategic partnerships, gig workers, managed services, etc are some of the sources to consider.
Way ahead for the new legal talent
Legal talent, while conventionally seen through the lens of a lawyer, has taken a leap in becoming digital. The industry has started to take cognisance of the same and to make sure to upscale its workforce. Law schools too are offering diverse and cross-disciplinary curricula to support the need of future legal professionals.
While still at a nascent stage, digital legal talent roles will take their due course to unleash the potential, creating sustainable legal businesses of the future, where diversity is acknowledged.
CLI NewLaw careers series
Conceived by Terri Mottershead, Executive Director of CLI, this series provides an opportunity for legal professionals to explore the new professions and specialisms that are relevant to contemporary legal practice. These are delivered by people working in NewLaw roles in law firms, legal departments, government and ALSPs. The lead collaborator and facilitator for the episodes on Legal Operations professionals was Mollie Tregillis, Director of Legal Optimisation Consulting, MinterEllison. CLI will work with several other lead collaborators for other NewLaw roles as the series continues to roll out after the Summit.
Follow the link to gain free access: CLI NewLaw Careers Series.
NewLaw careers summit
Additionally, the College of Law and CLI have collaborated on a free virtual NewLaw Careers Summit 2022 which will be taking place on 16-17 May 2022. This summit will be featuring 8 NewLaw careers including legal operations, legal technologists and innovation.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with our College of Law colleagues for this industry-first event. It’s going to be two days packed with information on the new and evolving roles in the legal ecosystem. We hope, at the end of the two days, participants will know all about these fascinating legal career opportunities, why they are in high demand, and how they can get started on a NewLaw career path,” said Terri Mottershead.
“It’s an exciting time to be working in legal. There are so many diverse career options. There could not be a better time than now to hold this Summit,” said Susan Pincus, National Careers Professional of The College of Law.
Follow the link for the event program and register: NewLaw Careers Summit 2022
Talent in the legal industry has often been synonymous with credentials, with law experience equating to better performance. However, digital prowess has paved the way to new beginnings. Diverse, cross-functional, business and tech-oriented roles are envisaged for future legal talent. Future law schools are training the new breed of law professionals with cross-functional curricula. The distinction between lawyer and non-lawyer is diminishing and the legal department is seen as a business function at large. The legal world is at the cusp of change, but are you ready?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Novum Learning or Legal Practice Intelligence (LPI). While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information in this article has been obtained from reliable sources, neither Novum Learning or LPI nor the author is responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information, as the content published here is for information purposes only. The article does not constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law relating thereto and does not constitute professional and/or financial advice.
This post was first published as a blog by Legal Practice Intelligence in April 2022 it is republished here with permission.