As law students and lawyers consider potential career opportunities in the legal profession, they are often interested in understanding which legal practice areas will be in high demand in the future. As I look into my crystal ball and try to predict some of the high demand areas in the legal profession over the next several years, my “Top 3” are below. A common theme for these Top 3 areas is the growing impact of technology in our lives.
Privacy & Cybersecurity
As technology continues to rapidly advance, we have seen – and will continue to see – an explosion in the amount of data that is being generated in our society. This incredible rise in data reminds me of the iconic opening lines of the classic book “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,…” Some have said that “data is the new oil,” and there are great opportunities for all organizations to use data to accelerate their digital transformations, better serve their customers and improve the lives of others.
However, data is also a highly desired asset of cybercriminals and certain nation-states – who are becoming more sophisticated and more brazen. Unfortunately, we continue to read about organizations across all industries being subject to very high-profile data loss incidents and their associated negative consequences.
What this means is that clients will increasingly need guidance from lawyers to help them properly protect data and use data in a lawful and responsible fashion. At the same time, the areas of privacy and cybersecurity are increasingly becoming regulated and more complex as new laws are being enacted both inside and outside the United States. Data privacy and cybersecurity issues are also starting to permeate into many traditional legal practice groups and in my opinion it will be necessary for all lawyers to gain skills in these areas to be successful as they become more fundamental to the provision of legal services.
Artificial Intelligence Law
While there is no singular definition for Artificial Intelligence (AI), some Microsoft engineers have broadly defined AI as “a machine that can act using human-styled reasoning or perception.” All industries are making significant investments in the AI space as certain tasks which have been traditionally performed by humans may be automated via AI – especially those that are repetitive and routine in nature. Gartner – the leading research and advisory company – has forecasted that by 2022 the total AI-derived business value associated with the customer experience, new revenue and cost reduction will be nearly $4 Trillion.
In late February I had the opportunity to serve as a Co-Chair and speaker at a Practising Law Institute program in New York City entitled “Artificial Intelligence Law 2019.” The title and agenda of this program made me realize that AI is quickly transforming into its own legal practice area that currently involves key disciplines such as data privacy, ethics, regulatory law intellectual property and employment law – and will probably include other disciplines in the future.
While AI is still very much in its infancy, its influence in our lives are starting to be seen every day as we routinely use and interact with digital assistants like Cortana, Alexa and Siri. As our clients continue to invest in AI solutions and the legal profession embraces AI as a tool for the delivery of legal services, lawyers will increasingly need to shape and navigate a growing AI law landscape that is also in its infancy and quickly evolving.
Legal Operations & Technology
Suffice to say that traditionally the legal profession has not been the proverbial “poster child” for embracing change and leveraging technology. But to quote one of singer and songwriter Bob Dylan’s most famous songs, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
We are increasingly seeing in-house legal departments and law firms being more open to digital transformation and using leading technology tools and data to achieve more and better serve their clients. The #LegalTech marketplace continues to grow exponentially to provide a wider range of technology solutions to the legal profession. Leading organizations like the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) are gaining in popularity and influence in the legal industry. In addition, law schools are beginning to understand that they need to reimagine traditional legal education and provide courses to better equip “21st Century” lawyers for the growing intersection of legal operations, business and technology.
As legal organizations accelerate their digital transformations to deliver more high-impact legal services to their clients, those lawyers well-versed in technology tools, data analytics, project management, process management, design thinking and AI will be in great demand.
As we have just entered a new era known as the The Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is a very exciting time to be a lawyer. Be sure to “skill-up” to take advantage of the opportunities that are out in front of us.