By Sharon Golec on Friday, February 16th 2018
Recrutement juridique

Digitalization, commoditization, alternative sourcing…should law students and junior lawyers be concerned about their job prospects?  The need for fewer junior lawyers to handle routine tasks, and benefit from training in the process, has been well documented.  Nevertheless, these same trends will create new opportunities for those who are flexible and entrepreneurial.  In “Tomorrow’s Lawyers” (second edition, Oxford University Press, 2017), Richard Susskind, renowned expert on legal market evolution and disruption, proposes ten new careers for lawyers.  

Of course, there will still be a need for lawyers providing value-added advice that cannot be standardized.  These lawyers will fall into two categories.  The first, which Susskind calls the “Expert Trusted Advisor”, provides customized, expert advice on subjects that defy standardized treatment.  The second category,   “Enhanced Practitioners”, comprises lawyers who make full use of digitalization and standardization, but who are still needed to provide contextualized legal advice.  These people are high-quality practitioners, but do not possess the level of legal expertise of the first category of lawyers. 

In addition, the following careers will either open up or continue to develop for both new graduates and experienced lawyers who want to make a career change:

- Legal Knowledge Engineer: analyzes legal materials; creates standard documents and processes; works with systems engineers to create digitalized tools and on-line legal services.  This role will represent a further development of the “knowledge management lawyer” function.
- Legal Technologist:  trained in both law and computer systems, they will create new ways of delivering legal services.  This could be a real opportunity for entrepreneurial lawyers who are fascinated by technology.
- Legal Hybrid: lawyers trained in multiple disciplines, for instance, law and psychology; law and management consulting; law and a sectorial expertise…Such lawyers will be true experts in both areas, having undertaken university training in multiple subjects.
- Legal Process Analyst: they will decompose legal processes and identify the best service provider(s) (appropriate expertise level, price…) for each task.
- Legal Project Manager:  in charge of managing multiple service providers (budget, scheduling, quality control…) entrusted with different pieces of a project, and overseeing the “repackaging” of the work into a seamless result to be delivered to the client.  Related disciplines: supply chain management and logistics.
- Legal Data Scientist: analyzes raw legal data to identify trends and make connections across legal and other disciplines.  Works closely with legal technologists and / or systems analysts.  Related disciplines: mathematics, computer programming, science.
- R&D Worker: develops new technologies and ways of delivering legal services.  Similar to the “legal technologist”, the R&D worker will be involved very early in the process.  This type of role requires creativity and an acceptance of risk, since not all projects will succeed.
- ODR Practitioner: the online dispute resolution professional will advise clients on how to make optimal use of online dispute resolution tools and will assist in e-mediation and negotiation.  Related disciplines: computer science, mediation and / or negotiation training.
- Legal Management Consultant:  this role already exists, but will continue to grow as in-house legal departments need advice on multiple management issues such as organization, strategy, team building, deployment of digital tools, knowledge management…
- Legal Risk Manager: this function, which is already undertaken to varying degrees by all lawyers, will become more professionalized as lawyers learn to deploy sophisticated methodologies, tools and processes to manage risk with a higher degree of proactivity.

Seizing these opportunities will require lawyers with specific technical and “soft skills”.  On the technical side, they will have to be “more than just lawyers”, mastering disciplines such as IT, management (organization, people, strategy…),   project management…in addition to law.  The widest range of opportunities will be open to those possessing personal competencies such as creativity, open-mindedness, ability to see the big picture, and communication skills to convince others to adopt new products and approaches.  The future therefore seems quite exciting…but seizing it will undoubtedly require changes in the way lawyers are trained, particularly in France, where young lawyers arrive on the job market with much technical legal knowledge but generally low exposure to other disciplines, except for those armed with joint legal and business school degrees…

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